Telo fun and stragety

March 28, 2018 § 2 Comments

Great night of racing at the Telo training crit last night, filled with action and #faketactics. Smasher smashed away from the field about halfway through and was never caught despite the disorganized and haphazard efforts of the chasers, who included Heavy D., Tony Wang, Shiftless, Dr. Whaaaat?, Hair, and me.

Cameo appearances by Prez, Wily Greek, and Junkyard enhanced their own personal fun of getting kicked out the back and fighting the 20 mph headwind alone for an hour.

Team Lizard Collectors used its four riders in the chase to perfectly set up Hair, who rides for Methods to Winning, for the field sprunt, which he easily nailed as the Lizards shouted at each other, watched Heavy D. ride randomly, and vigorously chased down each other’s attacks.

It never occurred to the Lizards to take turns attacking Hair, who happily sat in while watching his chances go from one-in-six to 100%. Smasher was awarded a coveted loaf of bread for his efforts. Hair, who got second, got nothing, and I, who got third, got the best prize of all: A ride home.

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The Calzone Crit

March 11, 2018 § 2 Comments

Surfer Dan lined up at the table, squaring off against Boozy P. and Smasher. Surfer was undefeated in ten consecutive food crits at Chez Davidson, having always left capable of eating more than he was served. Boozy P. was a Cat 2 eater and definite underdog, as his calzone sprints were going to be undermined by his propensity to beer dope, which took away valuable appetite and stomach space. Cat 4 racers Olive and Stanley were not considered a major threat.

The gun went off and Surfer came up on the inside on the appetizer laps, eating half a tub of hummus and slaughtering half a bag of helpless, mewing baby carrots. Boozy P., who was only on his fifth IPA ten minutes into the race, snagged an edamame prime as Surfer sat up to catch his breath and down another two bottles of San Pelligrino.

Olive and Stanley shuffled around at the back, spending the appetizer laps nosing around in the garbage can, dragging out paper towels sopped in olive oil and pieces of sausage, and staying generally unfocused on the race. Smasher opted to save his bullets for the calzone, and appeared unconcerned while Surfer polished off the hummus and the squalling carrot babies.

Suddenly the homemade calzone came out of the oven, next to a giant green salad with feta cheese and avocado, which appeared next to it on the table. Smasher attacked, hacking off a piece of calzone bigger than his head, and choking it down his gullet in two mighty swallows, one of which included a half-chew. Boozy P. sprinted hard for the end pieces and wolfed them down. Surfer followed Smasher’s attack, which had gapped out Boozy P., and countered Smasher by inhaling a double-slab.

The calzone’s homemade crust had been stuffed to popping with Italian sausage, pepperoni, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, mushrooms, and basil. Stanley and Olive sniffed around the edges of the table, but were repeatedly denied by the Surfer/Smasher breakaway, and were unable to bridge up to Boozy P., who was stuck out in no-man’s land.

Just as it looked like the two-man break was going to stick, Boozy P. made a superhuman effort by stuffing his entire salad into his face with his fist, and making it across to the break. Olive and Stanley couldn’t follow his wheel, no matter how hard Stan thought about the taquitos he’d stolen off the table at the 2014 Davidson Taquito Crit in an unforgettable come from behind victory.

In the twinkling of an eye, a calzone the size of a small paper shredder had vanished. The last piece went into Boozy P.’s mouth. As the competitors eyed one another, out of the oven popped calzone number two, and Boozy P., now on his tenth IPA, suddenly found himself in difficulty despite digging deeply into his suitcase of courage, which was unfortunately filled only with dead soldiers and bottle caps.

Surfer attacked first, shearing off a calzone slab resembling the calving of an Antarctic glacier. The gap was big, but Smasher smashed the calzone with his fist, squirting copious piles of cheese and meat and crust onto his plate. In one deft move he had seen Surfer’s calzone and raised him a double slab.

Coming into the final lap both riders were cross-eyed and queasy as the cheese and meat took its ugly toll. Huge rivers of sweat poured off their faces. Everyone stank of olive oil. Surfer and Smasher began playing cat and mouse with each other, nibbling on salad, sipping on water and baby carrots, and throwing cagey edamame moves with their elbows as they jockeyed for position.

But lo! As the two experienced pros locked onto the last piece of calzone, preparing for the final lunge to the line, Stanley somehow managed to come across the gap! While Surfer and Smasher eyed each other, Stan made his patented table-grab, snatched the last piece of calzone off the table and took home the spoils, scoring another daring win for the South Bay’s champion chihuahua!

Afterwards, Stan went out onto the balcony and pooped in satisfaction.

#winning #won

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Pointy-sharp

September 7, 2017 § 16 Comments

I had lunch with a guy today. He’s sixty-two years old and looks like most 62-year-old dudes. Not in the best of shape, maybe drinks a bit more than he should, doing okay but definitely on the down side of the power curve.

He was talking about young people, a favorite topic of old people. Young people, however, don’t ever talk about old people. In fact, they hardly are even aware we exist. “Yeah,” he said, “I tell my kids that if they can just show up on time and look presentable, they’ve already won more than half the battle. Don’t matter what the battle even is.”

It made me think about my bike rides, which always start on time. I’m fond of telling people the start time and then adding “pointy-sharp.” With few exceptions, when it’s time to ride, I ride. If you get left behind because you had a flat or an extra cup of coffee or got up late or changed arm warmers at the last minute, well, hopefully you know the route and are familiar with something called “chase.”

In cycling, it’s funny how people who show up on time with their equipment and clothes in superb order often correlate with people who ride well. Lots of examples come to mind. Daniel Holloway, for instance. He’s always early, his kit is always spiffy, and his bike is always immaculate. Or Evens Stievenart, the lokalmotor who just set the world-fucking-record for 24-hour racing … he’s another person who’s punctual, and whose equipment always looks like it just got cleaned. I suspect this is because his equipment just got cleaned.

There are exceptions, of course. I have one friend who is lethally good but who is the enemy of the punctual and whose gear isn’t always in the finest working order. But even he, when it’s race day, gets there on time and makes sure his stuff is race ready. And in his day job he’s invariably on time for meetings and looks like the professional he is.

At the extreme end of the spectrum there are people like Iron Mike and Smasher and Stern-O, for whom timeliness and especially cleanliness are religions. Hair and Charon are two other riders who always look GQ and who ride even better.

Of course showing up on time and having clean equipment doesn’t magically equate to great riding skills. But on the other hand, it’s hard to have great riding skills and also be careless about time and the condition of your junk. Possible, but hard.

Being on time sounds easy, but it isn’t. All the stuff has to be in order. You have to get up early enough to eat, to covfefe, to have the right clothes on. Air in the tires. Kayle Sauce in the bottles. In short, you have to be organized, which is exactly one of the things that it takes to ride well, having the ability to do a bunch of things simultaneously in a group of people also doing a bunch of things simultaneously and not wind up on the pavement or off the back. In other words, if you can’t get your shit together enough to roll out the door on time, how well will you be able to perform in something like the individual pursuit, where meaningful differences are fractions of a second?

I’m continually amazed by people who are always late, and who regularly show up with mismatched socks, threadbare tires, uncharged batteries, helmet askew, empty bottles, and who are totally unprepared for all the totally predictable things that happen when you ride a bike. Even when they ride me off their wheel I can’t help but observe how much better they’d be if their tires actually had air in them.

Jeff Fields, the guy who invented bike racing in Texas, was a detail fiend when it came to showing up early, having his bike in perfect working order, and looking like he just stepped out of a cycling fashion catalog.

And you know what? He won a whole bunch of races.

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Weeding out the grass roots

July 20, 2016 § 21 Comments

There is a new poison in the herbicide arsenal, stronger than Roundup, Banish, Barren, and TK-10 all lumped together, one so nasty and lethal that where it is poured nothing will thrive, nothing will grow, nothing will live.

We started Telo last night with our eyes glued to the fancy winner’s jersey plastered on the back of Smasher, knowing that whatever else happened, it was going to hurt us more than it hurt him, and it would be unendurable. Smasher’s race plan was simple: Smash.

His ultimate goal? Get the winner’s jersey for his teammate Derek the Destroyer, who a couple of weeks ago had officially retired as a profamateur, gained ten pounds, quit training, and places top-five now in every race he enters.

My plan was simple. Follow Smasher’s wheel, also known as Belling the Cat. Destroyer opened Lap 3 with a fierce attack, which I easily followed. All I had to do was go harder than I’ve ever gone in my life, then add ten percent. We were quickly reabsorbed. After following Destroyer around for another lap or so it seemed wise to slip farther back.

We had a large field of broken and hopeless wankers, none of whom had the slightest chance of surviving the carnage that was about to be unleashed. In a flash, just as I had settled back to check my phone and see how much money I’d lost for the day on Chinese real estate stocks, Destroyer went again and took six riders with him.

Being at the back when the winning break rolls is the stupidest feeling in the world. You watch it happen from afar, slack-jawed at your bad judgment, while all of the idiots around you either don’t know what’s happening, don’t care what’s happening, or, like me, pray to dog that someone will take the bit between his teeth and do all of the nasty work dragging you up to the split.

Then I spied Smasher, who was cheerily pedaling along, not the least concerned. “That wanker,” I said to myself. “He totally missed the split.” So I got on his wheel while a few panicked riders took turns trying to organize a chase.

[*Note to non-racers: “Organize a chase” is a fantasy concept that exists in the minds of people who think that a group of people who hate each other will work together for a common cause, cf. Republican National Convention in Cleveland.]

As we rounded Turn 4, I saw Smasher, who is British, arch his lower back slightly, tighten his grip on the drops, and push down harder on the pedals. “This is it, here comes Brexit!” I laughed to myself, jumping hard on the pedals so that I’d already have a head of steam when Smasher launched his bridge.

When Brexit came I was already accelerating, already committed, already fully prepared to follow Nigel Farrage in his destruction of the common European weal–except that I wasn’t. Smasher opened up a bike length, then two, then five, then ten, and then he was a tiny speck far, far ahead as I sagged in no-person’s-land. I don’t know how many watts he expended, but Strava says I was at my max of 253 watts, so he was putting out at least 14,000 or so.

There is a moment in every race that is decisive, which is another way of saying there is a moment in every race when everyone gives up hope, digs into their suitcase of excuses, tries several on until finding one that fits, and then takes comfort in finishing with the other losers in the fourth chase group. I slunk to the back and congratulated myself on having had the wisdom to miss the split and to choose the Wheel That Shall Not Be Followed.

However, the Brexit plot thickened. The other losers back in the EU chase group were unwilling to be losers just yet, and the breakaway lost steam as Scotland insisted it would Screxit from the UK and Scrontinue with the EU. After an eternity of riding at ridiculous speeds through cracks in turns, lapping gassed riders who would jump in, gap me out, then re-explode, after battering into the headwind where each pedal stroke felt like algebra, the incredible happened: Smasher and Boozy P. came back. Brexit was going to be put to a re-vote.

The losers took heart; the remnants of Destroyer’s break were a mere 200 yards away! They had been caught!

Except, since they were still 200 hundred yards away, they hadn’t been.

They dangled.

They teased.

They shed a couple more riders.

They were just within reach, kind of like good interest rates in someone else’s mythical portfolio.

Then, at the key moment in the race, I did what I’m known far and wide for: I cowered and hoped someone else would do for me what I was too lazy to do for myself.

No one did, and the 200 turned to 300. Fortunately, Smasher was still with us, until, of course, he wasn’t. He leaped across the windy gap in Brexit II, caught Destroyer and Steinhafel, and the three of them immediately put an entire half-lap on the twenty remaining losers, all of whom lost.

There was some sprunting for scraps, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch Destroyer pull on his first ever victory tunic, which of course he’d won in retirement. With the Union shattered and the cycling grass roots poisoned with buckets of all-kill herbicide, it was a great way to end the day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been having my new Leather Volt break down, which happily it did.

At least I’m not bitter.

Photos courtesy of Joe Yule!

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Elder abuse

June 15, 2016 § 16 Comments

We had six laps to go at Telo last night, which has evolved from a skull-splitting massacre by the strong of the weak into something even worse thanks to the introduction of the now-famed Telo World Championship jersey.

The rules are unclear as to whether you have to turn over your jersey if you lose, or whether former winners can wear their jersey during the race, but if you win the race you get the jersey, designed by StageOne Sports with curlicue flourishes to remind everyone that whatever else Telo is, it’s nastily windy.

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David Wells, two-time jersey winner.

I showed up last night for the first time since the jersey was introduced and noticed that not only were all the hitters present and accounted for, but a Velo Club La Grange squad comprised of Austin Powers, Sausage, and Surfer Dan had shown up with the specific intent to rip the jersey off of David’s back and take it back to the west side, preferably with a few heads mounted on pikes to serve as warnings or as appetizers for Patrick Barret’s legendary barbecue.

The plan to keep my powder dry for the first thirty minutes didn’t survive first contact with the enemy, or the second, or the third, and in fact after five minutes my powder was soaking wet. The second 2:20 lap shed half the field and the third lap split the field again. Simple math suggested that if the field continued its torrid process of mitosis there would soon be no one left.

Stuck in the chase group I chased hard, which is another way of saying I sat on Davy’s wheel while he chased hard, then sat on Sausage’s wheel while he chased sort of hard, then sat on Carlos’s wheel while he didn’t chase hard at all, then sat on Patrick’s wheel while he sat on other people’s wheel, and then barely stuck my nose into the wind, realized it was blowing hard and directly into my face, and crawled back into my hole.

Soon the entire school of remoras were firmly attached to Davy’s mighty thighs, and after much sturm, much drang, and extreme discomfort, Davy dragged us back to the leaders.

Smasher and Derek attacked repeatedly and were repeatedly brought back. Then with six laps to go and everyone starting to calculate just exactly how they were going to get that pretty new jersey, I cruised into the headwind section and gradually pulled away.

I looked back and saw a huge gap which was bad. When you are old and weak and alone and in a headwind, the only possible outcomes are bad, worse, and worst. In this case of course it turned out being worst, because Smasher, Rico Swervy, and Austin Powers bridged up. Imagine being a guppy swimming happily with your other guppy tankmates and then suddenly some idiot dumps a catfish into the aquarium.

The first thing that the bridgers did, of course, is ride past me so that I had to swim extra hard to latch on. After a lap they began riding even faster. Then they began screaming at me. I wasn’t sure what they said due to the wind and my breathing but piecing each of the shouts together it sounded like this:

Smasher: …. through  … catch … !

Austin Powers: Pull … you … the … gonna … you …!

Rico Swervy:  … field … us …  sake!

I marveled at the air from their lungs they were able to spare in order to repeatedly shout and spit at me; having none myself I endured the singularly horrible combination of verbal and physical abuse. At one point on the tailwind straightaway Austin Powers went so fast that my field of vision became a tiny dot of wheeze, not a speck wider than the 23mm of his rear tire.

Did they not know that I was 52 years old? Did they not understand that 52 is no match for 20, 30, and 40? Did they not understand that I had sprinters back in the field? Did they not understand that I wasn’t pulling through because I was totally pinned? Were they frustrated at my presence, which seemed to indicate that none of them were really all that good if they couldn’t ride away from a grandfather?

Smasher urged some more and then attacked and rode away and won.

Austin and Rico screamed and attacked but didn’t ride away, perhaps because they couldn’t. As we approached the finish they looked back in a panic. “You sprinting?” Austin begged, unaware that of all my bad qualities, sitting in a break at a training race and sprinting for second wasn’t one of them.

I said more nothing, as I’d been saying for the last six laps.

After the race Smasher was awarded the jersey as all of the dead, near-dead, and going-to-be-dead-later riders stood around and imagined themselves in that natty Lycra pullover. He smiled. He mugged. Then he singled me out: “Why didn’t you pull through?”

Everyone looked at me. “Congratulations, Josh,” I said.

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Stolen glory

May 4, 2016 § 25 Comments

 

What I want you to know is that yesterday, which was NPR Tuesday, I launched a glorious attack in the neutral zone along Vista del Mar as soon as we turned out of the alley. I’ve done this a zillion times before and it never works because I’m too slow and everyone else is too fast.

In order for any NPR break to stick a number of miracles have to happen, all simultaneously. First, Evens Stievenart has to flat. Second, you have to sneak away fast enough and early enough that you can scoot down the hill and get mixed in with traffic so the wankoton can’t really see you, like a thief in the night rummaging through *someone’s* panty drawer.

Finally, you have to *catch* all the lights on green or *catch* them on yellow or *catch* them on dead red a-la Stathis or Cowan and pray you don’t get crushed by a truck.

And then finally finally you have to latch onto a locomotive who is a) strong enough to stay away for four laps + Vista del Mar but b) not so strong that he drops you and c) is a complete idiot when it comes to bike racing and d) who can’t sprunt, i.e. Smasher has to be on the ride.

Finally finally finally, Venus needs to be retrograde in Cassiopeia and I’ll see your five and raise you ten. Then and only then do you have a chance.

Of course today was my day, because no sooner had I sprung clear from the snoozers than I saw Smasher up ahead. Smasher never met a hopeless breakaway he didn’t like. He looked back, saw the gap, and started smashing. “We got this,” he said. “Piece of cake.” Only one Vista del Mar sneak attack breakaway has ever stuck in the storied history of the NPR. That kind of once-in-a-lifetime cake.

Smasher smashed for a long way, I took a bitsy pull, and he smashed some more. Smashed up Pershing. Smashed up World Way ramp. Smashed onto the Parkway. I stuck my nose out in the wind for a few seconds for another bitsy pull. Then Smasher smashed some more.

When we made the u-turn it took so long to see the wankoton that I thought perhaps they’d made a wrong turn. Sausage was in no-wank-land attempting a hopeless bridge, and my teammates were chasing hard and then, all golden, we saw Evens S. flatted on the side of the road.

I sighed happily as I puked up bits of oatmeal, glued as I was to the mighty glutes of Smasher Who Smashed. At the final turnaround we were so far ahead that we lazily pedaled to the finish, where Cowan was standing with a camera because he’d crashed out for the tenth time this year and was having his bike glued back together. He was pissed. “You’re chatting!” he said. “What kind of finish is that?”

“We just owned your teammates, bitch,” I said. He reluctantly snapped a video of the laziest NPR victory pose ever and awaited the bunch finish for third, which had the hoped-for result: His teammate Todd Toofs beat everyone else. Grateful for scraps, Cowan posted the third-place video and titled it “Teammate wins NPR,” one of the few instances where history was written by the loser.

I tacked on a few extra hours, pedaling up Mandeville after almost getting doored by a car parked in front of Santa Monica Peet’s and driven by a guy who looked suspiciously like Ynot Alleznam, stopped at Phil’s and observed a homeless dude dance a jig in a Batman suit, then watched a crazy lady on the way home come shrieking up the bike lane in her Yaris beside a tour bus only to find when she popped out that there was a cop in the other lane who pulled her over and wrote her a ticket and then saw some buddies splayed on the pavement in Marina after they’d been run over by another crazy lady, this one on a bicycle going the wrong way in the bike lane and they’d had to chase her down and wrestle her off her bike and call the cops while the one dude nursed what looked like a fractured wrist, then I had a Tink sighting on the bridge, ran into Major Bob, Frenchie, and ML in PV but couldn’t stop to talk because I was bonking and then I got home, scarfed leftover tomato soup, leftover fried rice, an apple, a banana, half a box of chocolates and a quart of milk, and did my best imitation of “Crampie Grampie” where you hop around on one foot howling until the other leg cramps and then you roll in a ball and moan and everyone looks away embarrassed.

Mallorca, here I come.

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Training crit

March 31, 2016 § 22 Comments

We have a training crit called Telo. No one is sure what it trains anyone for, but on Tuesday at 6:00 PM we do it anyway.

Telo, pronounced “this really fuggin’ sucks,” has one main feature, wind. Huge buckets of it sweep off the coast every afternoon without exception. Yesterday the buckets were Rubbermaid Industrial Sized; I’m guessing 25 mph.

The course is a long tailwind section, a short right-hander, then a long headwind section, a chicane, more headwind, another right-hander, and back to the tailwind part. You would think that the headwind section is the worst part and you would be right.

One of the great things about the Internet and being really famous is that when you announce you’re going to be at Telo a ton of people show up. So I announced my presence and got to see what kind of weight I pull in the South Bay as a tiny group of maybe twenty-five riders appeared.

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The only thing that makes Telo harder than huge wind buckets is a small field. Yesterday the field included Evens, Smasher, Fireman, Destroyer, Surfer Dan, SB Baby Seal, Hair, and Family Jules. Clearly the worst thing to do would be to attack from the gun. All I had to do was mark Destroyer and I’d make the split, which is exactly like the old Aesops’ fable of Belling the Cat. All the mice have to do to stop the cat from eating them is put a big bell around his neck. Yep, that’s all.

Junkyard, who showed up to flash lap cards, waved us off. By refusing to participate, he once again proved himself the wisest person there, although as he scampered back and forth across the course with riders whizzing by he almost achieved the Trifecta of Bike Crashes: Falling on the Road, Falling on the Track, and Getting Run Over at a Bike Race While Not Even Riding.

I attacked from the gun, if “attack” is what you call dangling 50 yards ahead of everyone on the neutral lap. However, it served its purpose, which was to make sure I felt droopy and lacticky when the real attacks began, of which there was only one, and which came from Evens, and which was into the headwind, and which everyone could simply look at and drool hangdoggedly “You go.” “Nuh-uh. You go.” “Fugg tha, you go.”

The field had about fifteen people left and they all appeared to be small and thin and useless for my purposes, which was finding a good wheel to gasp onto.

I followed a couple of hapless moves and never slipped back more than fourth wheel, all the while wondering “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Where are Smasher and Destroyer?” Nothing would happen without them, except what had happened, which was that the winning break of one had morphed into the winning group of five and I wasn’t in it.

Fireman, though, was. He had told me before the race, “Just follow my wheel and you’ll make the split.” So I followed several other wheels while he made the split and I didn’t.

As I took a few ineffectual pulls I kept wondering, “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Gee I’m tired and exhausted and tasting that salty sour bitter stuff in the back of my throat and my legs have that ‘stop’ feeling but where are they? What are they doing? Smasher is always patient and waits until the first 30 seconds to attack but not today. Is he tired? Weak? Sick? Too much Cal-Mex queso before the ride?”

Of course I could have looked, but it’s hard to turn your head when you’re rollicking through massive pavement cracks dodging oncoming angry cagers and delivery trucks whipping out of industrial park driveways and 25-mph gusts that stand you up when you slam from the sheltered short top section into the wind and your eyes have switched sockets.

If I had looked back I would have seen D&S chillily sitting in the back not having yet pedaled. Which would have been a bad thing to see.

“When are they going to attack and bridge?” I wondered. So I slipped back and got on Smasher’s wheel, who was on Destroyer’s wheel. “Okay fuckers,” I said. “Do your worst and drag me up to the break.”

On cue, Destroyer hopped hard on his pedals and Smasher hopped with him. Surfer Dan slotted in ahead of me and it was just the four of us. First we went fast. Then faster. Then really fast. Once we hit the apex of this-hurts-so-bad-if-we-go-any-faster-my-face-will-come-off, Destroyer started going fast.

Surfer gapped, which was great because now I had an excuse. IF ONLY HE HADN’T GAPPED ME OUT I WOULD HAVE MADE IT. REALLY, MOM!!!

I watched the two of them pedal merrily off, satisfied that I now had an excuse and, since we’d slowed down, could breathe again and uncross my kidneys.

Ten riders came up to us. Everyone else who hadn’t already been dropped got dropped.

We rode the next forty minutes in a single line. Each time you got within three riders of the front the pain was unendurable. My pulls went from weak and ineffectual to lightning-brief cameos where my pull consisted of one pedal stroke, a 5-mph decrease in speed, and a wildly flapping elbow.

One by one the group shrank. Every couple of laps someone shuddered and quit. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6.

This is what it must have been like to be stuck in a life raft with nothing to eat but each other, and nothing to drink but blood, salt water, and urine. When SB Baby Seal melted into a wet stain and slithered off the back with only a couple of laps to go I knew things were bad. With Hair, Boozy P., Jay L., and Surfer Dan the only people left in our pitiful chase group that wasn’t really a chase group so much as it was a don’t-get-lapped group, and with us all broken the only thing left of the glorious dreams from 60 minutes earlier, we each struggled across the line, downcast, downtrodden, filled with futility, defeat, and the reality that no matter how bad you are on a bike, racing will make you worse.

Up ahead the shenanigans had been vicious. Heavy D. and Brokeback Brokeleg had been ridden out of the break. Fireman had been worked over. Family Jules had been denied his second Telo victory despite cagey wheelsucking, sagging, pull skipping, and work avoidance of every kind. Evens had ground everyone up into fine powder. Destroyer and Smasher had attacked every lap the last five laps until one of them beat everyone else.

However, I finally realized that I had gotten it all wrong. Telo isn’t a training race. It’s a funeral train. And you’re the guest of honor.

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Amateur stripper

February 26, 2016 § 35 Comments

Used to be, you could strip the bolt on your seat post without any special tools. You wanted to adjust the seat so you took an Allen wrench and loosened the bolt, put the saddle at just the right place to give you patellar tendinitis, and cranked down the bolt until it got tighter, then tighter, then you gave it one last crank “to keep ‘er from slipping” and ping! The bolt would spin freely in the bolt-hole thingy, completely stripped.

Then you would cuss and yell and kick something gently and go rummage around in your tool box and not find another bolt and then go down to the bike shop where Uncle Phil would sell you a new bolt, never saying a word but looking at you like, “Wow, you are a 14-carat maroon with chocolate fudge on top.”

You could pick the generic bolt for $4.95 or the Campy bolt for $8.95, so you always chose the Campy one, went home, and then tightened away but this time you were so afraid of stripping it that you didn’t get it tight enough and so you did your next few rides with the seat post slipping and you kept stopping to move it and everyone would be pissed off at having to wait until after about five stops you’d get it magically right so that the seat height was right and the bolt was tight.

All you needed to create this bleeding migraine headache was a little 4mm Allen key.

I said goodbye to all that when I got an integrated seat post with my fully carbon Giant TCR frame back in 2013, which was made of 100% full carbon. The seat post was part of the frame and to set the seat height you just sawed the thing off until it was right. If you cut it too short you were in the market for a new frame, but once you got it cut right it never jiggled up or down and there were no bolts to strip. When I say “you cut it” what I mean is “Manslaughter cut it.”

Then, I said hello to all that when I got my new all carbon Cannondale bike, which is also 100% carbon. It has an old-fashioned seat post with a bolt that you can strip the shit out of, but Smasher had warned me not to dare to even try to tighten it.

“Yo, Wanky,” he said, “you got to use a torque wrench for that.”

“A what?”

“A torque wrench.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a wrench that lets you measure the torque on the bolt.”

I gave him my don’t-get-technical-with-me look followed by my monkey-examining-a-semiconductor-look. “What are you saying?” I asked.

“Your 100% carbon frame that is made of full carbon isn’t like your old 95% steel frame made of 95% steel and 5% manganese, chrome, nickel, molybdenum, and niobium. You used to be able to tighten the shit out of your steel frame and only strip the bolt, but with full carbon frames that are 100% made of genuine all-carbon, if you over-tighten the bolts you crack the frame and then you have to go buy a new frame or give it to Fireman to fix for $43, which is fine except that when he slaps on a few sheets of carbon and duct tape things can go sideways when you’re whizzing downhill at 50.”

“What are you saying?”

“You need a torque wrench.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a wrench that measures torque so you don’t over-tighten or under-tighten things.”

“Like Old No. 72?” I asked.

Smasher rolled his eyes in despair. “Yeah, just like that, only completely different.”

“Where can I buy one?”

“You don’t really want to buy one.”

“How come? You just said I’d crack my frame without it.”

“Yeah, but you’re the kind of guy who can really hurt himself with tools. You know how you used to create a week’s worth of hell and misery with a fifty-cent Allen wrench?”

“Yeah. So?”

“A torque wrench set costs $40 and has about thirty sockets. That’s a year’s worth of misery and a couple of new frames at least.”

“Forty bucks?” I said. “You can get a Snap-On wrench for $40?”

“Whoa, Wanky. I never said nothin’ about Snap-On. That’s $40 for a Made in Chinese Slave Kitchen special. But you don’t need Snap-On. It’s above your pay grade, trust me.”

So we fought for a couple of hours about whether I needed a Chinese Slave Kitchen set with fifty pieces, a driver, and a cool box for $40 or a Snap-On handle and a single 4mm socket for $400.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never going to use either one, but at least if you have the Slave Kitchen Special you can have more sockets and break more shit.”

“I only need the 4mm socket.”

“Why’s that?”

“I only have one 4mm seat post bolt.”

“You’re a nut job. Look, I’ll loan you my Snap-On and my Slave Kitchen Special. Try them out for a week and tell me which one you like best.”

“Sorry, I never borrow tools.”

“You’re not borrowing. You’re testing.”

wanky_torque_wrenches

Well-stocked Wanky tool box with toquey wrenches and stuff.

“I can tell you right now that Old No. 72 won’t want to be anywhere the Slave Kitchen Special.”

“Whatever. Just try it out.”

So I took the two items home and got to work on my seat post, which was perfectly positioned at the perfect height and perfectly snug, not slipping even a tiny amount. After five minutes of diligent work I had stripped the shit out of the seat post bolt. So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I stripped my seat post bolt and may have cracked my new frame.”

“You idiot,” he said. “I told you not to work on your bike.”

“Yeah, but I got some new tools.”

“You idiot,” he said, “I told you not to own any tools.”

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“Seat post was too high?”

“It was perfect.”

“Was it slipping, then?”

“Snug as a bunny’s butt.”

“Then what the hell were you doing?”

I got ready to tell him, but then he cut me off. “Bring the bike by,” he said. “I don’t want to know.”

(P.S. New Cannondale Evo Super Six, size 56 mm frame with less than 500 miles on it, in almost mint condition, is now for sale for $150 bucks. Message me for details. No refunds.)

END

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What a tool

February 3, 2016 § 31 Comments

snapon1

Old No. 72

When I was a kid my dad had a toolbox that lived in the garage. It was gray with a red tray inside. It was made of steel. Inside there was a big hammer, two screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, some pliers, and a big steel file.

I learned early that tools were the enemy. When something broke you had a problem, but once you put a tool to it, you suddenly became the 100% owner of the problem in fee simple with no remainderman, like the time our record player stopped working and we took it apart. We got a whipping for that. “What the hell are you taking it apart with a hammer for?” my dad had yelled.

The hammer was my tool of choice. I would take it out to the gutter and pound away at the cement curb, sometimes for hours at a time. Occasionally I would use the wrenches for bike repair but the bike always ended up lots worse than when I started, so eventually I quit trying to fix anything. I was the kid whose handlebars were always crooked and whose banana seat was missing a couple of screws.

When I started cycling I really learned to never work on anything, ever. The bike was a mysterious black box, where the ankle-bone was connected to the eye-bone and only Ph.D.’s in bikeology were competent to repair them. It got to the point that I was afraid to even carry tools with me. Better for the bike to explode than for me to have to adjust my saddle.

I was living in Japan when one day a Snap-On truck drove by my house. I remembered Snap-On from Texas, where you’d see their little trucks driving around. I thought they were cheap-o tools because of the name, “Snap-On.” It made me think of “snap-off.” I flagged down the driver and we started talking. He was a really nice dude and showed me inside his truck, which was filled with tools. I didn’t recognize any of them except the screwdrivers and the crescent wrenches, so I bought a couple. They were really expensive, but I chalked it up to buying U.S. products in Japan.

Next week he came by again and I bought a couple more tools. After a couple of years I had a big red box about two feet long by three feet high filled with Snap-On tools. I didn’t know what any of them did, but there were a couple that I could use around the house when something got loose. “Here, let me tighten that screw with this $150 screwdriver.”

Also, I had an old Bridgestone commuter bike with bolts instead of quick releases, so I used the socket driver to change flats. I bought the socket driver because it had an orange handle and because when you snapped on the socket you could grab it with your hand and twirl the driver, which made the coolest whizzing sound.

When I got back to America a buddy saw my tools and his eyes bulged. “Damn!” he said. “Is that all Snap-On?”

“Yes. Why?”

“That’s the best stuff there is.”

Over the years I lost various pieces or they got corroded from being left outdoors for months at a time and stopped working so I threw them away. Plus, the tool box was heavy and we moved around a lot. Finally I was down to a couple of dozen tools so I gave most of them away on Facebook. You never saw anything get snapped up so quickly.

Still, I kept a few screwdrivers and wrenches, especially the Old No. 72. Old No. 72 was the biggest crescent wrench in that guy’s truck and it cost like $400. It wasn’t good for anything but I used it to loosen the lock ring on my cassettes. The wrench was so heavy that when you tightened the lock ring you’d strip it instantly if you weren’t careful. I went through a lot of lock rings.

One day Smasher came over and saw my Snap-On stuff laying all over the balcony in various stages of rust. “Dude,” he said, “WTF?”

Smasher is a pro motorcycle mechanic and his shop floor is clean enough to build microchips on. I’ve seen his tools and they are cleaner than a woman’s wedding day underwear. Smasher came back a few days later with a bag. “You know that stuff is all Snap-On, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“How about I give you some cheap Chinese tools that will last you a hundred years since you’ll never use them, and you give me those?”

“Okay,” I said.

He put them all into the bag and left. A couple of weeks went by and the replacements never arrived. Pretty soon I got a hankering to go strip a couple of lock rings so I called him up. “Where’s the cheap-ass Chinese tools you promised?” I asked.

“I’m out of town, dude. Susan will drop them off.”

“Okay,” I said. “But hurry. I’ve got some lock rings that need stripping.”

Susan came by while I was gone. Mrs. WM put them on the couch. They were in a little soft black case.

I got home and saw the case, laying face down on the couch. My urge to go ruin a few hundred dollars’ worth of bike equipment had faded so I just left them there for a couple of days. Then Smasher called. “Hey, dude,” he said. “What did you think about the tools?”

“Hang on and I’ll tell you,” I said.

I went over to the couch and grabbed the bag. I flipped it over and saw it was quite immaculate and had “Snap-On” embroidered in bright red lettering. I unzipped it.

Smasher had lovingly reconditioned every single tool, even down to my one socket. “Dude!” I said. “You polished it all up! Even my socket!”

“You idiot,” he said. “I showed it to everyone at the shop. No one’s ever seen a Snap-On socket driver with just one socket. How come you only have one socket?”

“I only have one bolt.”

“And why three adjustable wrenches?”

“It reminds me of my childhood.”

Smasher had also cut out perfectly formed shapes for each of my random tools so that they would nestle in the case’s foam backing.

“This is pretty rad,” I said, “but I can already see a few problems.”

“Problems? What problems, you nut job? They’re nicer than when you bought them.”

“I’m afraid to use them. They’re too beautiful. I suppose I can season them out on the balcony for a few months, though.”

“Don’t you fuggin’ dare.”

“Okay,” I said, taking out Old No. 72. Its jaws purred open and shut, begging to wrap their shimmering edges around the tender aluminum of a slim lock ring. “I won’t.”

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END

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Grandpa power

November 15, 2015 § 18 Comments

I stared at my giant bowl, sloshing to the brim with amazing chicken chili, the plate next to it runneth-ing over with chips, guac, salsa, goat cheese, giant shrimp pan-fried in ceviche sauce, a bowling ball rack of mini-cornbread, and a dessert plate groaning under two slabs of pecan pie towering with Antarctica glaciers of vanilla ice cream.

The ice cream was melting rapidly, and two thoughts occurred to me:

  1. “My legs feel like that soft puddle of melted ice cream.”
  2. “Historically they fed the lambs BEFORE the slaughter.”

Nice Michael Smith, the single nicest human being I’ve ever met through cycling, had invited a blood-soaked cadre of young assassins to his house for a Saturday “fun ride” through Orange County. The “fun ride” was to be followed by a glorious feast of food items that I normally could only gaze at from afar when trolling the oatmeal and peanut butter aisles at Safeway.

However, the night before the “fun ride” I took a look at the final start list and immediately ran to the potty. One name, writ large, Manzilla, was followed by a list of people whose only known function in life was to hurt other people. Smasher, Alx Bns, the Moldovan Murderer, Meatgrinder, Search, some Italian dude (what do they know about cycling?), All Stairs, Bo, and of course Nice Michael Smith himself.

I called up Nice Michael. “Dude,” I said, “I can’t make it tomorrow for the ride. Can I just come by afterwards and eat?”

“Sure,” he said, “what’s up?”

“I’m riding so incredibly well right now, clumbing and sprunting and time trailing and such, that I need to back it off for a week and looking at the start list you clowns are gonna throw down and I’m gonna get sucked in and go too hard and wind up hurt and overtrained which I pretty much already am here in early fuggin’ November.”

“Don’t worry, you can chill. Boozy P. and CEO will be there.”

“They will?” My fears evaporated.

“Yeah.”

Boozy P., who is normally pretty fierce on the bike, is only fit for six months every three years; the rest of the time he works on bikes between drinks. CEO is a great guy to ride with because he’s slower than a Tonka truck and super fun to talk with. In other words, I’d have company.

The morning of the “fun ride” I arrived, desperately searching for Boozy P. and CEO. Neither was there. “Yo, Michael,” I said, “where are my ride mates?”

“Oh, CEO changed his mind and decided to go to a kiddie soccer game, and I think Boozy P. forgot to set his alarm.”

“Those fuckers.”

On the way from Los Alamitos to our first obstacle, the San Joachim climb, we pushed along PCH, which from Long Beach is fifteen miles of road sliced by three hundred stop lights. The strong young people sat on the front and kept a steady, battering pace into the wind. Each time I got closer to the front we’d catch a light and I’d do my “whoops how do these pedal thingies work” trick and fumble with my pedal until the group was past, click in, and sneak up to the rear again. In this manner I avoided ever taking a pull.

At the launch site we paused while Nice Michael Smith explained the climb and administered last rites. “Grandpa here is riding super strong so he’ll see you all at the top,” Nice Michael said with cruel irony, and bam we were off. I hopped onto Manzilla’s wheel, grimly prepared to have my legs torn off and the dangling tendons wrapped around my nuts as Manzilla would tear off his own leg and beat me to death with it.

In 148 head-to-head match-ups, none of which Manzilla has ever been aware of, I have finished a climb ahead of him exactly twice, and both days have been circled on my calendar and turned into Davidson National Family Holidays. The first time I wept openly; the second time I slaughtered a goat and several virgins.

Today was apparently not going to be the third time because after a handful of minutes he pushed down on the pedals with such brute force that the spinning rear wheel left a three-inch divot in the asphalt. I attacked backwards as Smasher, Pink Sox, Nice Michael, Alx, and All Stairs pounded by, fighting each other for the honor of grabbing Manzilla’s rear wheel with much the same senselessness of kids playing “Kill the man with the ball,” where everyone chases after something, the attainment of which only results in getting your face beaten in.

Manzilla kicked it again and everyone decided that they had reached their training goals for the day except Smasher and Pink Sox, whose coaches had prescribed a few more kicks to the groin, which Manzilla dutifully delivered before soloing to the top. We gathered, one by one, piece by piece, quietly and gasping.

“How much more climbing is there?” I begged Nice Michael.

“Just one more.”

That was terrible news. If there were six more, they would be gentler. If there was only one more, it would be the Night of the Living Dead. We descended Newport Coast, rode into Laguna Beach, and passed a pretty high school as we began the climb. Smasher suddenly bolted ahead and the conversation silenced. None of us knew the road except Nice Michael, and I was now referring to him in my head as Sonofabitch Michael Bastardass.

The road went steeply up. “Manzilla is gonna bridge to Smasher now and I’m gonna follow him,” I thought to myself, and half of that was true.

I don’t know how steep or long the climb was, but it devastated everyone except Manzilla. Smasher lingered on his wheel for a while until, annoyed by the breathing and the smell of Smashers’ freshly upchucked lungs, he kicked it and vanished.

The whole climb was surreal, and not just because it was endless and mostly 18-percent. It was surreal because as we heroically battered our way to the top, driving wooden stakes into the entrails of our enemies, engaging in the fiercest hand-to-hand combat as we toiled to the top, the ferocity of competition and the viciousness of the climb created the expectation that the victors would scale the summit, a lonely and desolate peak occupied at most by a wizened wise man sitting in a cave dispensing The Truth, or perhaps there would be a cairn that had stood there for a thousand years and only those strong and valiant enough to survive the climb to this desolate peak would be allowed to scratch their names into the stone, perhaps with their fingernails or with the smushed testicles of the vanquished.

Instead, the top was populated by hundreds of nice people and tourists, and there was even a middle school a few yards from the top where you could hear someone saying, “Here you go, Jenny,” as they opened the car door for an elderly lady who was about to enjoy the same precious view as you with none of the entrails ejecta.

It felt like climbing to the top of Mt. Everest on your elbows and having to stand in line behind a dozen plump people in wheelchairs as you waited for your chance to sign the book.

We regrouped at the Starbucks in Laguna Beach and spent an hour or so looking at the beautiful ocean and making excuses for our weak performances, “I’m a grandpa,” I repeated seventy-five times.

“I just had shims put in my shoes,” excusified the Moldovan Murderer.

“I thought we were going easy,” said Search.

“It’s the off season,” everyone else echoed in chorus, except Manzilla, whose only seasons are Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, and Kill, which runs concurrently with the other four.

Happily, our group got a bit separated after we climbed Newport Coast, and Manzilla stopped to fix a flat. “We’ll just roll ahead slow,” I said. Manzilla nodded and waved us on. As soon as we were a couple of hundred yards away I put it in the 53 and started sprunting.

With the tailwind we were soon doing mid-30’s. “Catch this, you bastard,” I said as our greased paceline rocketed through red lights, around terrified people trying to get into or out of their cars, past pedestrians innocently crossing the street, and over road detritus that no one pointed out to anyone else, hoping to achieve through flats, equipment failure, or crashing what couldn’t be done through strength.

By the time we got through Huntington Beach some of our crew were feeling the ill effects of the sustained effort, and after checking in with their Internet coaches determined that it was probably time to go easy. Everyone, that is, except Nice Michael, whose true character came to the fore as he battered his teammates and young friends off the back one by one until no one was left but Smasher.

We got back to Nice Michael’s and hurriedly changed so that when Manzilla arrived we could pretend we’d been there for an hour, rather than for five minutes as we knew that he’d single-handedly make up our entire 10-person advantage in very short order.

In addition to getting mostly last up both climbs and being shed rather quickly from the pace line, my body shivered and shook as I plowed through the diet-busting plates of food, all prepared by Nice Michael’s astonishingly beautiful wife, who was as expert a cook as she was lovely.

“I’m a grandpa, you know,” I said loudly to no one, hoping that some of the youngsters would drop a kernel of praise or two for my lackluster performance.

No one said a word.

END

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