Death by a thousand pedal strokes

October 28, 2019 § 3 Comments

Number of times since 1982 that I’ve been rescued in a car due to a flat/mechanical: 2.

Time one: 2019 BWR.

Time two: 2019 Phil’s Cookie Fondue.

The “flat moment” looked like a lot of “flat moments.” There were four of us and we were about halfway done with the Double Fudge, which should be named the Doubly Fucked. Ride organizer Phil Gaimon begs people not to do this ride and to choose something reasonable instead, and people listen. There were only about fifty riders who signed up, in addition to the 300,000 thorns that had pirated the ride and spread themselves all over the roads.

My $185 entry fee leaked out all the air at the bottom of Pepperdine Hill and I said to my three companions, “Go ahead. I’ll change it and catch up.”

This was the moment of truth. Experienced riders, or frightened riders (often one and the same), never abandon their ride mates unless the mate is truly abandon-worthy, and I obviously was. Yasuko, the Russian, and TB bolted off down the road.

I’d brought one spare tube and it had a defective valve, of course, and after going through both canisters I stood less than a mile from the Starbucks in Cross Creek contemplating my options. Option 1 was to shout at the approaching riders and beg for a tube.

“You okay?” the lead rider said as they came slowly by.

“No, I need a tube and air.”

They all looked straight ahead and kept pedaling.

Option 2 was ride to the coffee shop, catch a Lyft back to Giant Santa Monica, get patched up and ride home, which I did.

But I worried. Not about myself, but about Yasuko, who I’d been training with for this 115-mile, 12k monster. I knew that her friends would leave her immediately and it would be dark, and she’d be alone on steep mountain roads in the Santa Monicas on a Sunday evening. A flat? A mechanical? She’d be in trouble of the kind marked “serious.” I kicked myself for having told her to go on. Not only would I have had a good tube to borrow, but she would have had a wheel to sit on. My legs had felt great the entire day.

The fondue was so sparsely attended that she was certainly the last rider, certainly, and the aid stops for the Double Fudge, in contrast to the happy ones at the beginning of the ride, were depopulated. They’d likely be closed by the time she got there. Still, it was PCH in SoCal on a cool, clear Sunday. What could go wrong? Aside from, you know, everything.

Unlike past editions of Phil’s Fondue, which were marked by howling Santa Ana winds, blistering temperatures, bone-dry air, and people getting blown off the road, this one had begun auspiciously.

We’d missed the start due to a bladder malfunction, I’d gotten yelled at by some dude for not wearing a helmet, and with the exception of one quick water stop, we’d made solid time. The aid station staffed by Big Orange’s Alan, Brooks, Joann, and Franzi was the best aid station on the route. I don’t know if fondues are going out of fashion, because judging from the numbers pinned to rider jerseys, there only appeared to be about 700. A good chunk of those you can presume were either comped or riding with a discounted entry fee. For a 2-day event with huge logistics spread all the way from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, I don’t see how it all adds up.

Nor was there much excitement. People seemed like they were going through the motions, which I chalk up to the fact that at this stage in the game most fondo riders have done a ton of fondos. It’s like a USAC masters bike race minus the beauty of the industrial park. This makes sense because the fondo demographic is very much like masters racing: old people who aren’t really excited about anything. Like me.

There was minimal participation from local clubs; I saw a smattering of VCLG and Big Orange riders, no one from the fondo’s backyard powerhouse Serious Cycling, and at $185 a pop to ride local roads, even with the cookies and the desire to support local events, that’s a big price tag. Levi’s Fondue, the original “must ride” event, used to cap out at 7,000. Now they beg and hustle for entrants just like everyone else. Few have mastered the magic incantation of the BWR, which still sells out every year and has the feel of something new and exciting no matter how many times you do it.

But none of that mattered as I ate a couple of stale biscuits at home and wondered about Yasuko. She had sent me a photo somewhere up on Deer Creek around 4:08, which was nearing the 9-hour mark, the sun starting to go down, a long, long way from the finish, and perhaps the nastiest part of the route left to do: the howling, 20-mph headwind for the last eight miles.

I called an hour later and she answered, having just turned into the headwind on the home stretch down Las Posas. She sounded drained, miserable, and at wit’s end, in short, like she was just about to finish the Doubly Fucked. And she did. They’d closed up the finish line but she circled round the back, the final rider.

People were impressed.

Phil’s Fondue Double Fudge. In tennis shoes.

END


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.

END


It’s too expensive!!!!!!!

June 17, 2019 § 4 Comments

I love it when some wanker on a $6,000 bike and electronic drivetrain who’s wearing a $1k kit/shoe/helmet combo bitches about the entry fee for Phil’s Fondo, a gravel ride, or the BWR.

My next favorite whine is when someone poutily disses an organized ride with “Why would I pay to ride roads I can ride on for free?”

Let me help you out.

First of all, quit pretending it’s the money. If $150 were a dealbreaker for you, you’d never have bought the power meter, the Training Peaks, the Zwift subscription, Strava premium, or the Rapha merino wool armwarmers at $120 a pop. Right? It’s not the money.

Second of all, quit pretending that you’d normally ride these roads if they weren’t part of a gran fondo. No, you wouldn’t do Las Posas/Yerba Buena/Encinal on a single ride as in Phil’s Fondo, and no, you wouldn’t do Lemontwistenberg/Lake Hodges/Black Canyon/Questhaven/Double Peak as in the BWR.

You just wouldn’t.

So now that we’ve gotten these two issues out of the way, let’s look at why you absolutely should be participating in at least a couple of fondo-esque rides every single year.

  1. They get massive numbers of cyclists on the road, and that impacts motorists and rider safety. It’s one thing for cagers to see dribs and drabs of riders throughout the week, it’s another thing entirely to see thousands of them strung out over a course for the entire day. The inescapable message is that cyclists matter, they exist in numbers, and please watch out for them.
  2. Just because you’re such a badass #profamateur that you don’t need sag, a route, rest stops, mechanical help, or encouragement doesn’t mean everyone else is like you. In fact most fondos have a large contingent of riders for whom this is their first “big” ride, or it’s their first organized ride, or it’s their target ride for the entire year. When you support a fondo, you are supporting grass roots riding. Plus, as an expert #profamateur badass doing a fondo, you can actually help people who are less pro than you.
  3. In the case of Los Angeles, a cycling hotbed home to 15 million+ people, there are about five major gran fondos: Phil’s Fondo, Circle of Doom, Malibu GF, the Nosco Ride, and the LA River Ride. Los Angeles is a notoriously expensive place to organize bike events, and of course it’s exactly the place where such events are needed most. When you support these events, you are ensuring that they stay, and that they continue to provide local riders with the opportunity to participate without leaving home.
  4. Fondos are a great way for clubs to build ridership and provide participation in events without the club having to organize the event. It always pains me to see local fondos not supported with local club turnout; these are precisely the kind of event that clubs can turn into intramural competitions, training rides, or opportunities to mentor new riders … to say nothing of having a great time. Major Taylor Cycling and Cali Riderz regularly target the Palm Springs Century as a major club event on their calendar.
  5. USAC replacement. Many racers and ex-racers are no longer so thrilled with the state of USAC racing. Fondos offer you the opportunity to actually race in somewhat less formal circumstances, often with better competition, better routes, and a better vibe. And if you’re a masters doper, there’s hardly ever any testing!!

So take a look around and sign up for a fondo. My local pick is Phil’s Fondo, but my wife and daughter did the LA River Ride this year and loved it. Nosco is unique because it’s donation only (deadbeats can even pay zero!), and Circle of Doom is shorter than some of the others but bitterly hard. Outside LA, in my opinion the BWR wins hands down, but there are great options in Mammoth, Tehachapi, Big Bear, and Solvang, to name just a very few.

These rides are worth supporting, even if it means you have to wait until 2020 to get those ceramic bearings. Really.


END

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Feed your children well

October 31, 2018 § 4 Comments

I remember coming home from kindergarten one day, all excited. “Dad!” I said.

“Yes?”

“We can get free lunch at school!”

“You can?”

“Yeah! A bunch of the kids get free lunch! They don’t have to PAY!” I couldn’t believe that you could go through the lunch line and not have to give the lady a nickel for your milk and fifteen cents for your lunch plate.

“That’s great,” Dad said, not especially excited.

“Can we get free lunches, too?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“How come?”

“Because,” he said slowly, looking at me. “We don’t need them. Other people do.”

Lunch and recess

I started school at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Galveston, in 1968, the first year that the schools on the island desegregated, fourteen long fucking years after it was ordered by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. The best two parts of the day were morning snack, recess, and lunch.

The cafeteria was always open an hour before school started and you could go in, pay a nickel, and get chocolate milk. For another nickel you could get a mini-box of corn flakes. I had breakfast at home but loved the chocolate milk and if I had an extra nickel I’d make sure to buy some.

There were always kids who got to the the cafeteria in the morning as soon as it opened, and who would eat two or three mini-boxes of cereal before joining the rest of us outside as we played four-square, hopskotch, basketball, or covered ourselves in dirt and sand in the long jump pit. In fact at Booker T., most of the kids cycled through the cafeteria before class started, at least to get a free carton of milk.

Free.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized those kids were in the cafeteria early because for many of them it was the last meal they would see until nightfall. Maybe for a handful, those two bowls of corn flakes were their meal for the day.

As a grown man with grandchildren, the world can sometimes seem complex. But here’s something simple: If one out of every six children is hungry, you have failed as a nation.

Chefs cycle, chefscycle

A peculiar aspect of grand fondues is that they often link up with charities, encouraging donations and giving a percentage of their proceeds to a cause. For four years I was vaguely aware of the charity recipient at Phil’s Cookie Fondo, ChefsCycle. It’s a group that raises money on the bike and donates it to No Kid Hungry, which in turn is a group that lobbies for school breakfast/lunch funding and puts money directly into schools to allow them to feed kids for free.

The idea that we have a Congress where free food for kids is an issue that requires lobbying is mind-boggling until you consider that our nation also builds and maintains concentration camps for immigrant children. It’s a tiny jump from the one to the other, yo. The idea that the weakest and smallest among us need advocates, rather than the idea that every human being is OF COURSE an advocate for children, is unfortunate and true.

Since 2015, ChefsCycle has raised $6M for No Kid Hungry, and they have done it through a simple concept formulated by chefs Allan Ng and Jason Roberts: “How can we get out of the kitchen, onto our bikes, and do something that puts food in the bellies of hungry kids?”

Mushed banana

Now that I am old and going very gray, I am reaping my reward. It is not financial. It is not material, as anyone who has analyzed my wardrobe and Timex watch knows. Nor is it spiritual, as Dog hasn’t spoken to me with any more clarity today than he did when I was three.

No, my reward for raising a family is this: I get to see my son-in-law mush up a very ripe banana with his thumb and carefully feed it to my 6-month-old grandson. My reward is the smile and eager smacking, and the bits of drool and banana that spill out from his tiny mouth as he happily and with pure pleasure defeats for a few hours the hunger that is within us all.

His small reward of a mushy banana is my reward. You can make it your reward, too, in some classroom, in the stomach of some little kid who you will never even know.

END

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Green socks and ham

October 30, 2018 § 1 Comment

I was at Phil’s Cookie Fondo on Saturday doing a lot of nothing as I walked around the exhibitor area. There was a tent on the corner painted green, Dr. Seuss green, and it had some stuff written on it along with a pile of green socks out front.

I started talking with the lady but she was a bit difficult to understand at first as she wasn’t a native English speaker but rather a Canadian. Soon however she understood my “dudes” and I understood her “Eys” and with the help of some sign language and Google translate we were getting along famously.

Over in a chair sat a dude, also dressed in green, with a green gimme cap and an extremely relaxed attitude. His name was Joel and the lady I was talking to was Jillian. I don’t know if they got married because of the alliteration, but “Joel & Jillian” is pretty hard to beat.

“So what’s this that you guys do?” I asked.

“Before we get to that let me ask you the big question,” Jillian said. “The one that matters.”

“Uh, okay.”

“Solid green or green polka dots?”

“Pardon?”

“Which sock design do you want? Solid or polka dot?”

“I’m kind of a polka dot guy as of late,” I mumbled. “And green.” She handed me a pair of free socks. “So what is it that you guys do?”

What it is that those guys do

Joel and Jillian used to be developers in Alberta, which is one of the nicest places on earth for about six days in July [cf. David Miller a/k/a Cat 5 Dave]. Those other days Alberta is pretty terrible, for example the day that we were chatting in our shirt sleeves at Phil’s Fondo on Saturday, the Albertans were already tromping around in over 19 feet of snow.

As Jillian was telling me about their life outside of Puerto Vallarta, where they lived with their kids because PV has 360 amazing days a year and zero feet of snow anytime, I thought about the last time I had taken a trip overseas. Here’s how it went:

  1. Got to Slovakia.
  2. Slept in hotel.
  3. Ate breakfast.
  4. Milled around with drunken tourists.
  5. Stepped in barf.
  6. Opened up my phone and did a search for “Bike Rental.”
  7. Walked a lot, got lost a lot, finally found the bike rental place.
  8. Sat in front of closed bike rental place for a long time.
  9. Left.
  10. Criss-crossed the city looking for a rental bike.
  11. Didn’t find one.
  12. Finally found one, a real POS.
  13. Rode it until the seat broke and almost punctured my ass.
  14. Returned the bike.
  15. Walked back to hotel, sad face.

I was thinking about this because Jillian had just asked, “Have you ever gone on a trip and wanted to rent a bike?”

“Not exactly.”

“Oh. You don’t cycle?”

“I do.”

“Just not on vacation?”

“It’s not that I have ever gone on a trip and wanted to rent a bike, it’s that I have never NOT gone a trip and wanted to rent a bike. But it is such a shit show and plus, where do you ride? So it’s basically massive frustration.”

Enter the chill green guy in the lounge chair

Turns out that my experience is common. So common that Joel came up with the idea to create a browse-and-book service for traveling cyclists, i.e. everyone. The idea led to an app and a business and the amazing fruition of an idea, putting cyclists in touch with local ride guides around the globe.

Now in 63 countries not including Antarctica, their Velo Guide app lets you check out amazing destinations, communicate with your potential guide, and resolve forever the painfully vexing question of “WTF am I going to do on this trip without a bike and place to ride it?”

Check ’em out!

END

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Just add bacon

October 25, 2018 § 10 Comments

Have you ever wondered where rest stops come from?

You’ll be out in the middle of nowhere, famished, both bottles empty, halfway between nowhere and purgatory, alone, miserable, regretting the last-minute decision to do the stupid ride, and then bam! You’ll see a rest stop on the side of the road.

It will have water and drink mix, bananas and pbj squares, cookies (if you’re at Phil’s Fondo), and all manner of heavenly delights. It seems so natural, but really, it’s kind of amazing. Let’s go over it again:

  • You are in the middle of nowhere.
  • On a bicycle.
  • Starving and thirsty.
  • Wishing you were dead.
  • Up pops a fully staffed aid station.

How does it get there? Does someone plant seeds the year before, water them, and then they magically grow, perfectly timed?

The birds and the bees and the bacon

Actually, aid stations occur because these mystery things called “volunteers” get up long before dawn, drive to the start/finish, load their car with tents, food, water, and pickle juice, drive way out into nowhere, and set it all up.

Take, for example, last Saturday on the Circle of Doom, where the first rest stop atop Crystal Lake wasn’t simply an assortment of bananas and energy drink, no, it was something way more awesome than that. It was fried taters and bacon.

Scientists have concluded that the very finest fondo food is bacon and taters, and at the Circle of Doom, this magic was created by the Flawless Diamonds, a group of women who donate their time, energy, and money to feeding children, feeding the homeless, and feeding the hungry in southeast L.A. In other words, they know how to fry up bacon.

And fry it they did, as Flawless Diamonds Toni Smith, Valerie Casborn, and Special Jones lugged their deep fry skillets, cooking oil, cooking utensils, and everything else up the mountain, setting it up, and cranking out the best bacon ever served anywhere, much less on a bike ride.

Even though they fried up what looked like a hundred pounds, the riders scarfed it so quickly that the stragglers almost didn’t get any. It was inhaled.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished, because as they were driving to the set-up, a CHP motorcycle cop cited them for DWB. No matter that the cop could have pulled over dozens of other cars for crossing the yellow line in order to safely pass the cyclists, DWB is apparently a very serious crime in the San Gabriel Valley.

They didn’t let it dent their day, though. They set up, fed the hungry, then broke camp and did it all over again at the start/finish party area. I guess it doesn’t really take a village. It just takes the Flawless Diamonds. And bacon.

END

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IMG_9840

It goes to eleven. Unfortunately.

January 25, 2017 § 34 Comments

Last year I did a grand fondue, Phil Gaimon’s Gran Cookie Dough, very big ride, one of the biggest, the best in fact. I rode really fast, faster than anyone else, bigly. Lots of people complained. Losers. Nasty, disgusting losers.

I sent Phil a copy of my best selling book, Cycling in the South Bay, which has sold hugely millions of copies. It is the best selling book ever, it is fantastic, you will love it. Best sports book ever, bigger than the Bible.

We got to talking about his grand fondue for 2017. Great fondue, absolutely the best. People say it’s the best. There were over a million people at the last one, I saw them myself. And the people who say that Levi’s grand fondue had more riders are liars, despicable nasty liars, some of the worst people on earth. I’m at war with those people now, I’ve won Phil’s grand fondue with the fastest time ever, much faster than Santa Monica BMW. Losers.

My people tell me that the people who did Levi’s grand fondue all cheated and didn’t even pay. I am paying for an investigation to have them banned from bicycles, really terrible people.

But Phil and I decided to talk some more about his grand fondue so we picked a place to meet, Philz. Coffee shop in Santa Monica. Hugely famous place, the best. I’ve been to a lot of coffee shops in Santa Monica, but Philz is the best. Others are terrible, lousy, bad service, surly waitresses and you can’t even grab them by the pussy. I can grab them by the pussy, they will let you do anything to them if you’re famous.

But parking in Santa Monica is terrible, the worst. Nasty, despicable parking and so many unemployed street people. They are disgusting, dirty former army people, they stink. So I put my bike in the back of the car in order to park and then ride my bike to meet Phil at Philz. Bicycling is hugely popular now, great, it’s the best, and I’m the best bike rider out there. Really, the best. My doctor says I’m the healthiest and strongest bike rider he has ever seen. I have huge watts, too. Massive watts. Much bigger than Phil’s watts. Phil is a nice person, but tiny watts. Just look at my hands. Tiny Watts Gaimon.

I parked the car and took out my bike to ride it to meet Phil at Philz, very popular place, the most popular place in California, great coffee, the best, but my SRAM battery had been removed from charging and I was stuck in the eleven. SRAM is a terrible product, made in China, very bad people, terrorists. Without the battery which no one had told me to put back in I had to put the chain on the 59, a huge gear.

I have the best watts, huge gears, really, the biggest. Phil’s gears are much smaller than mine. Tiny Watts Gaimon. Poor Little Tiny Watts Gaimon. Nice guy, but tiny watts, baby watts actually. My Strava KOMs are much bigger than his. Tiny KOMs Gaimon. Good guy. Loser.

Some people have said to me, “You can’t ride such huge gears,” but that is a lie. Despicable news media. I can push the biggest gears and that’s not nearly as big as the ones I will push later on next year’s grand fondue, Phil’s Gran Cookie Dough Fondo.

When I met Phil at Philz, which by the way is a fantastic coffee shop, the best, he asked me about my huge gears, obviously they were huge, much bigger than his, giant gears, round ones, the best. But we need to keep out SRAM Chinese products if they don’t allow our electronic shifters to be sold in China, 35% tax and we will build a wall and Xi Jin Ping will pay for it. Out of his allowance. A huge wall, in fact, Americans are tired of buying Chinese electronic derailleurs. They are rapists and criminals.

Phil was surprised at how huge my gears were and he said so. “Huge gears, massive,” he was impressed and people say that those were the biggest gears since David Perez, bigger than his by far.

Great day but terrible SRAM product, defective. Complete fraud.

END

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One tough cookie

November 10, 2016 § 17 Comments

So this was my first grand fondue, and it was a doozy. 18 billion feet of climbing, nothing but Santa Monica mountain roads, and a finishing kick on PCH.

It was the first ever Phil’s Gran Cookie Dough, a fondo that had lots of great stuff, but whose key feature was cookies. Not just any cookies. These cookies.

cookies1

They were so filled with butter and massive bombs of chocolate that when you held them to eat, the aftermath looked like you’d been digging in dirt up to your elbows. I’m not sure if they were chocolate chip cookies, or giant lumps of chocolate with a few crumbs of flour around the edges.

Whatever they were, I needed them, because I had signed up for the full 117-mile, 13,000 foot beatdown only to arrive and decide that as old and stupid and slow and crazy as I was, I wasn’t old and stupid and slow and crazy enough to throw down with Jesse Anthony, Phil Gaimon, Matt Wikstrom, James Cowan, Michael Smith, Katie Donovan, and all of the other etceteras who were doing the full route.

Instead I chose the easy route, 88 miles and 10k of climbing punctuated with lots of rest stops. Problem was, this. And I’m not talking about the underwear:

back_strips

The previous Tuesday on the NPR there had been a rather brisk pace and upon returning home I realized that it had been so brisk I could no longer walk. Naturally, this led to fears not of paralysis, but to fears that it would affect my cycling. So I went back out on Thursday and rode a bunch more. The good news was that my injury didn’t impair my riding as long as I never had to get off the bike.

So on Friday I rode some more, took Saturday off, and did the grand fondue with what can only be described as wrenching pain every time I had to get off the bike and stand. Fortunately, a bike makes a great cane!

The ride started with a parking lot flat tire, where I used my only tube. “No worries!” I thought. “I never get flats.”

Then we rode rather briskly up Potrero, which isn’t really a climb so much as it is a 1-mile physics problem. (I failed physics. Then and now.) Over the top I soft pedaled, having set my strategy for the day: Give up, go slow, and eat cookies.

Soon I was joined by Frankie, Delia, and Lloyd, and we gaily chatted, gaily pedaled, and fell like marauding Goths on the first feed stop which overfloweth-ed with cookies. You’d be amazed at how grand fondue math works. It’s like this:

500 kcal expended + 1,500 kcal of cookies = make sure to eat more cookies at the next stop

That’s a real formula, perhaps with the multiplier of gels/sugar drinks/energy bars so that you finish the ride like I did, three pounds heavier.

About halfway through, my ride mates began having technical problems that involved flat tires and broken spokes, which was no problem because there were a pair of Mavic support cars trolling the course, changing flats, and getting everyone going again. The problem was that even though I’d been going slowly and eating bigly, after several hours in the heat it became clear that if I didn’t hustle I’d be going home in the sag van.

So I hustled.

Alistair Fraser and Tom Buffington, two fellows who were in for the full 117-miler, caught up to me on PCH and we turned up Mulholland together, each of us cursing Trump in our own special way, denying that such a person could ever win the presidency. After about a mile we were overhauled by a group that included David Steinhafel, Katy D., and five or six other young people who were clearly in a big hurry to get to the next chocolate chip cookie station.

Unfortunately, the station was at the top of a six or seven mile climb, and the pace was brutal. One by one riders dropped off, however, being a hop-in wanker who had joined the group after resting and going slow whereas they’d already done 80 miles of bitterly hard riding, I was able to struggle to the nasty top, clinging to the wheel of a 20-something kid with big frizzy hair who shredded everyone else.

He pulled over for cookies at the top and I dropped down the Yerba Buena descent. Yerba Buena was last paved in the late Paleolithic, and there’s nothing that feels better when you’re exhausted and in fear for your life than having your front wheel hit giant crack after giant pothole for mile after mile on a harrowing descent.

Kind of like being unable to get away from “that guy” in a crit peloton, the guy who is weaving and guaranteed to crash you out, the guy who no matter how hard you try to avoid but is always in front of you, I was continually hitting massive gashes in the road that I saw, avoided, and smashed into anyway. My rear tire finally succumbed and there I was, flat and out.

This is where you notice there are three types of riders in a grand fondue, and in life generally.

  1. The ones who pretend they don’t see you on the side of the road in your orange outfit holding a tube in your hand, helplessly.
  2. The ones who zoom by at 35 and say, “You okay, dude?” and are gone before you can sob, “No!”
  3. The ones who stop and help.

The great thing about cycling is that no matter how many times YOU may have been a 1 or a 2, there is always a number 3 because, yo, bike riders!

Peter Nesmith was my angel. He stopped, gave me his last tube, waited until I was sure the stem would fit through my all-carbon rims which were made of pure 100% carbon, and then continued on. However, I had misjudged the stem length and was soon standing with a properly mounted tire and tube and a fizzled C02 cartridge. My last one, natch.

Katie D. saw me, slowed, and did a number 3. Why yes, she did happen to have a valve extender. Why yes, she did happen to have an extra C02. Why yes, she would certainly help me get going again. Why yes, she would certainly show me how a pro descends. Why no, she would never see the fear smears in my shorts from following her wheel all the way down to PCH.

Once we got onto flattish, tailwindish roads, within smelling distance of the parking lot, we both got bumper fever, that sudden infusion of power and strength that comes from knowing the misery is almost over. None of the power and strength came from the tailwind. None. We were briefly joined by Patrick Barrett and Chris Miller, and some dude who had come down from Vancouver.

Back in the beer garden and barbecue park I wandered, dazed, eating the best pulled-pork sandwich ever, marveling at the people who had ridden 30 miles farther and finished two hours earlier, and wondering why I was having so much trouble standing. Must have been the cookies.

END

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Celebration

October 23, 2016 § 16 Comments

The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards wrapped up with hardly any controversy! There are too many people to list for their wonderful contributions. No, wait, that’s not true. This is the Internet and there is absolutely no limit. So here goes!

First off is Diego Binatena, from Base Cartel. Why Diego? Because I fucking forgot to thank him last night, out of all the people who deserved mention. Bottom line? Buy his shit. It’s awesome and he’s a good dude.

This year the event hit the medium-time thanks to the Southern California and Nevada Cycling Association. They kicked in a ton of money and funded the toilets, the lights, the sound, the stage, free food, chairs, tables, pro photography services, and half the beer. In short, they made the event! My only question is this: Where were all the SCNCA award recipients? Jeez! What is it about “free food, free beer, and cash prizes” that you bike racers don’t understand?

The plus side was that there were plenty of SCNCA recipients to come collect their trophies and cash, and no group better represented the spirit of the night than the crew from SC Velo. What  fantastic bunch of kids. I think they may have even learned new cuss word or two. I always take pride in mentoring the youth.

Anyway, on to the thanks!

Jan Luke, SCNCA President. Made shit happen. Made this partnership happen. Lugged in the trophies. Lugged out the trophies. Was awesome in every way!

Chris Black, SCNCA Vice President.

David Huntsman, SCNCA Secretary. Lawyer, advocate, friend, guy who has done so much to breathe new life into SCNCA.

Armin Rahm, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, dad, promoter, businessman, friend. Showed up to show the Amis how a Bavarian drinks beer.

Justin Williams, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, cool guy, friend. Ready with a quip and encouragement, hell of a bike racer.

Suzanne Sonye, SCNCA Board Member. Legend, legend, legend. Oh, and legend.

Matt Wikstrom, SCNCA Board Member. Mr. Git R Done. Handed out checks, coordinated everything for two months before the shit show, brought more goodwill, enthusiasm, and execution to the event than anyone ever. Plus kicked the shit out of everyone on the Donut. Except those two pesky juniors.

Sean Wilson, SCNCA Board Member.

Omar Lozano, SCNCA Board Member. Promoter, dad, husband, and part of the “new face” of bike racing promotion in SoCal. Enthusiastic hard working dude who supports juniors, local, and binational racing.

Dan MunsonSimply the best. Pro photographer. Even as I write this he’s putting together a folio of the amazing evening. Prepare to be blown away.

StageOne: Designed everything. Logo, t-shirts, patches, bar tape, banners, posters, and virtually every kit worth looking at in the South Bay.

South Bay Wheelmen: Local bike club that kicked in hard cash to buy flowers for the lovely deserving recipients.

Wend Wax: Chain wax. Look. This shit works. So go get some. Ryan Dahl generously donated 20 sets of Wend Wax, a billion dollar retail value, for the award winners’ swag kits. So frigging cool. He also gives me all the wax I can use.

JoJe Bars: Energy bars. John Abate and Jessica Cera’s amazing energy bars that are organic, wholesome, taste great, and give you an amazing kick in the shorts when you need a boost on the bike or off.

Beachbody PerformanceEverything you need to win, to finish, or to prop your legs up on the couch and watch the Cubs win instead of riding your bike. Beachbody has been the number one step up and deliver new sponsor for cycling in 2016.

BonkBreaker: Provided awesome swag bags to award winners containing energy snacks, energy chews, and super cool musette bags. Thank you!

Marc Spivey: Wanky Committee member who filled the venue with the right sound at the exact right time. Marc’s lifetime in the music and entertainment industry, and his passion for music has meant that every single year we’ve had sound that matches or exceeds the most famous award ceremonies anywhere.

Derek Brauch: With the help of Jami, put together the most awesome Wanky Swag Bags™ ever. Provided us with meeting space for our numerous and redundant meetings, the best analytical mind around to improve, question, improve, question, and improve until we were even better than the year before.

Trey Smith: The ghost in the machine. Every year Trey provides us with incredible sound that makes the whole thing happen.

Keedar Whittle: Fantastic comedian who kept people in stitches, hit the great stuff, didn’t shy away from politics, race, and biking, and left us all happy and glad he came.

Michelle Landes: Arranged flowers, total selflessness, and was there with a smile, encouragement, and assistance every step of the way.

Chris Gregory: Truly the Spirt of the Wankies. Whether it was ordering the Hall of Fame figurines, designing and making, the necklaces, choosing and assembling the invitations, recording and double-checking RSVPs, taking photos at the event, making elegant podium presentations, keeping things running smoothly, and always helping me just when the confusion was at its max, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to do it.

Lisa Conrad, Sherri Foxworthy, Stephanie Lin, Chris Gregroy: These four amazing women have been with the event since its inception, if “inception” is what you call a bunch of drunks in a dive bar trying to give away awards to passers-by. From the minute we said “Wankies” they donned their evening finest and showed up with shimmering with beauty, poised, happy, funny, gentle, and they’ve been here every year since. Truly, no matter how rough and sort-of-ready the biker gang crowd is, they give us all the class you can’t get all sweated up on a bike.

Jami Brauch: Jami artfully designed and stocked the swag bags despite having a newborn to care for–the bags were so great this year that people simply couldn’t resist stealing them. Can’t wait for next year!

Kristie Fox: She helped with the swag bags, she set up and managed the sales table (books, socks, bar tape, patches, t-shirts), and she singlehandedly ordered and delivered the most massive and awesome cake in the history of the awards. And cupcakes! And done with a smile and ruthless efficiency.

Strand Brewing Co.: No mere words can thank Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello for this amazing venue, for their support of grass roots cycling, and for providing the infrastructure and support to pull of this best-ever event. Oh, minor detail! FREE take-home growlers of White Sands DIPA, their top-shelf, brew, to every adult who showed up.

Tony Manzella and Echelon ColorPrinted and delivered the amazing award ceremony posters. Ansel Adams said it: “The negative is the score, but the print is the performance.” And what a performance by Echelon Color it was!

Tara Unversagt: Tara worked to get SBW sponsorship involved, helped with swag bag materials, and did the ultimate job of Cub Scout Den Mother by keeping me organized and on track throughout the event. So much fantasticness in one person!

Phil Gaimon: Best UCI US pro road racer, attended our event, made us look semi-sort of legit, and promoted what is the best Grand Fondue on the calendar: Phil’s Malibu Cookie Dough Gran Fondo. Register here, register now. Phil drove straight from Clovis, NM, to make the event. How awesome is that? Very awesome!

Daniel Holloway: As if Phil Gaimon weren’t enough, reigning US road/crit champ Daniel Holloway brought the star power and picked up right where he left off. Being a part of the South Bay community. Thank you so much for sharing.

The 2016 South Bay Cycling Awards award winners were:

  1. 2016 Greatest Advocate:  Sarah Barraclough for BMUFL/Master Safety Plan advocates
  2. 2016 Best Bike Shop:  Performance Bicycle
  3. 2016Best Young Rider:  Ivy Koester
  4. 2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
  5. 2016 Most Improved: David Holland
  6. 2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
  7. 2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
  8. 2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
  9. 2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
  10. 2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
  11. 2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody Performance
  12. 2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
  13. 2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
  14. 2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
  15. 2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
  16. 2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
  17. 2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
  18. 2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
  19. 2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
  20. 2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella

Until next year, thank you!!!

END

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