Park bench

August 18, 2018 § 7 Comments

Last Sunday we had the inaugural All Clubs BBQ sixth South Bay Cycling Awards at Eldorado Park in Long Beach. The two people who made this event happen, Ken Vinson and Kristie Fox, arrived before the sun rose to get things set up.

There was a guy sleeping on a park bench and Ken asked him if he would help out in exchange for a meal. The man’s name was Ben Millane, and not only did he help,  he took ownership of his tasks and being part of the event. He did the leaf blowing for the entire area and helped clean the venue. He was kind and talkative, and seemed as excited as anyone to be there, maybe more.

Without being asked, he stayed all the way through tear down. He talked numerous times throughout the day to all kinds of people. As the final things were loaded up, Ben thanked Ken and Kristie, said he loved the event, then asked if it was a one time only happening. Kristie said the event would definitely be back next year and that she would contact him. Ben has a FB page, and wondered where he could get one of the cycling t-shirts made by Origin. Kristie said she’d get him one.

This kind of interaction between strangers is what the day was about.

Six years is longer than you think

At the end of the South Bay Cycling Awards last year I was pretty wrung out. We had gone from humble origins at Naja’s dive bar in Redondo Beach to a huge event at Strand Brewing in Torrance, each year bigger than the last.

But after last year it felt like the event had run its course. There are only so many times you can give out twenty awards of distinction in a small community before you really are simply recycling names. Instead of an organic gathering of friends we had become a choreographed event with moving parts, all of which had to be timed and integrated.

It was a big old hassle.

As we were tussling with the idea of what to do in 2018, or whether to do anything at all, we were invited to join one of Ken Vinson’s Movement Rides. I’ve written about that experience, but it brought home the fact that if our event was going to represent the broader cycling community, it would need people from those communities who had skin in the game. Our decision to merge the two events was a quick one that left us with little time to pull it off.

“Don’t worry,” said Ken. “If give me the green light, we’ll make it happen.”

Let the people breathe

One thing I learned is that it’s hard to step aside. It’s kind of painful to see that when you’re not there, there are plenty of people who can do it better, more efficiently, and more effectively. And while it was great to see so many people come to the fore and do fantastic things, it also drove home that when an event is identified with one person it sort of sucks the oxygen out of the room for everyone else.

Apparently I was a pretty big oxygen suck, because when I turned the keys over to Ken and Kristie a whole host of new people stepped up to make the event better than it has ever been before. It’s hard to single out any one person, but some things really stood out.

One of them was Jeff Prinz of CBR, hopping around on a bandaged leg as he organized kids’ games and turned the first half of the event into a genuine icebreaker. It’s one thing to get black and white and brown people into a single venue, but a whole other thing to get them to talk. Racial barriers are real and they don’t come down easily. Although physical proximity is the key, it’s sometimes not enough.

Enter the world’s biggest game of musical chairs. Under Jeff’s direction the entire central area was converted into a game of 150-seat musical chairs, and this is where the barriers shook, crumbled, and fell. People diving for seats, laughing, bumping into each other, connecting as human beings over a simple child’s game … it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, made supreme by the fact that the child’s game was won, of course, by a child.

Let the people eat

Throughout the park, master cooks Harry McQueen, Patrick Barrett, Geoff Loui, and Jonathan Fraser cranked out the tantalizing smell of their pit creations, building to a fever pitch when the barbecue judging began at noon. Judges Sherri Foxworthy, Orlando Hutcherson, and Marvin Campbell did the hard work of eating the best barbecue imaginable, then trying to pick a winner.

And pick they did, anointing Patrick Barrett the winner’s laurels in a hard-fought contest. With heaps of non-contest meat also being grilled, people wandered through the area sampling, eating, and enjoying an amazing mix of camaraderie, community, and family. Shortly after noon Toni Smith and her Flawless Diamonds opened their food line and things got even more serious.

The first 150 people ate free; after that it cost ten bucks a plate for barbecue, cornbread, beans, and dessert. The Flawless Diamonds made sure that at this event, like every event they cater, no one goes hungry who can’t afford a meal. This too was a symbol of the day.

Let the people race

Around the corner from the stage, Zwift had set up a booth where you could strap into a spin bike and show your watts. The biggest wattage for the day, man and woman, each won a Zwift subscription along with a $1,200 indoor trainer. Competition was intense, to put it mildly. Zwift was one of many organizations who supported the event, including Race for RP, Velo Club LaGrange, and Big Orange Cycling. I’ve linked to the other sponsors in a previous post here.

The biggest race of all, of course, was the race of the people who showed up. It’s the first time ever, as was noted by keynote speaker Nelson Vails, that such a diverse community of cyclists has shown up to support, encourage, promote, and pay homage to the diversity of cycling. Award winners in 2018 made this event the most diverse one ever, and we didn’t even need an Oscars scandal to make it happen.

How did it happen? By doing the right thing for the right reasons with the right people.

After it was all said and done, we showed that people can work together, that unity is stronger than discord, and that the things we share as human beings that bind us together are infinitely stronger than the minor differences that people use to try and drive us apart. We showed that the first step to a better a world requires us to share the same physical space, that the second step requires a little bit of fun, and that the third step requires that we break bread together. The driving force for all of this, of course, is the bicycle, and anyone who doubts that bikes can save the world wasn’t at Eldorado Park last Sunday.

From volunteer photographers like Fred King to volunteer set-up hands like Ben Millane, from organizers like Ken and Kristie to the clubs who showed up in force, From Erick and Kurt on the sound to Peta and Rudy on the sack race, all I can say is that if you liked what you saw last week, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.




The money is shown!

August 4, 2018 § 5 Comments

It’s not that easy to get several hundred crazed adults swinging a baseball bat at a stuffed seal trying to get free inner tubes. This kind of thing takes organization, but most of all, it takes volunteers and sponsors.


The first annual sixth All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards and Seal Pinata Whack-a-thon is right around the corner (literally, it’s in Long Beach, and figuratively, it’s a week away). In the event that the state of California doesn’t burn up in the next seven days, the celebration is going to be intense and immense.

It couldn’t happen without our generous sponsors, and our one incredibly cheap, skinflint sponsor (that would be me). Here are the folks to whom we are indebted. Whether they will be indebted to us after the event is over is another story. With the exception of myself, all sponsors are listed randomly.

Law Office of Seth Davidson: This is me. Is it possible to be indebted to oneself? I doubt it.

BeachBody Performance: Protein powder and energize. The protein will grow your pros until they are hunky and smooth, and the tein will keep you feeling like you’re in your teens.

Race for RP: $2,000 cash donation in a world where cash isn’t simply king, it’s also the queen, prince, princess, nobility, and most of the serfs.

Big Orange Cycling: $1,000 cash donation in a world where bike racing clubs never support socially worthy causes unless there is a lot of beer involved. This event has beer.

Wend Wax: I have written about this stuff extensively. It makes your chain glide, and as they say in Brazil, “Man trim bush, get tall tree.” If you’re tired of filthy chain gunk that gets everywhere, Wend is for you. If you like filthy chain gunk that gets everywhere, why?

Hint Water: Hand crafted beverage in which each oxygen atom is lovingly paired with exactly two hydrogen atoms. NOT filling, tastes great! The first time I drank this stuff I thought, “Hmmm.” That’s because I’m used to overfake waterized drinks. After a couple of bottles, I grew to love it. The flavoring is super mild and it’s straight up water. Now I’m known to push down little kids and senior citizens to get theirs.

The Bike Palace: South Bay institution without the white jackets. The Bike Palace is donating this year’s sacrificial seal pinata as well as the seal stuffings, which happen to include  50+ 700×25-28 Specialized Inner Tubes in 48, 60 and 80mm valve lengths, retail @ $6.50 – $7.50/each, 30+) Skratch Labs Single Serving packets @ $2.00/each, 100+ different gels from Hammer, Untapped Maple and GU @ $1.75 – $2.50/each, 20+ Bonk Breaker Bars @ $3.99/ each, 20+ Pedro’s Tire Levers @ $3.99/each, and a pair of Wahoo  ELMNT MINI bike computers @ $99/each. All of this is another way of saying that they are giving away all of their eaches, so if you need a spare each, you should wait until the following Tuesday.

Evolution PT: One month passes, 45 min. recovery boot sessions, and 12 EPT trucker hats. The hats come in handy when you’re in a truckstop and you need a special rub in a special place and have run out of monthly passes.

Zwift: 2 Subscriptions and 2 Cycle Ops indoor trainers, valued at $2,400. When I saw this I was like, “WHOA! That’s some generous shit!” These are great for rainy days or in California, where it hasn’t rained since 2005, indoor fire days. Zwift has radically disrupted the most important part of cycling, which is making excuses. “Too cold out,” “Too hot out,” “I go to work early,” “I come home too late,” and my favorite, “I hate training alone,” were all taken out behind the house, stuffed in a bag, and drowned.

Velo Club La Grange: Never satisfied with just doing the right thing, the La Grange folks decided to do the right thing with a heaping of money on top. They donated $2,000 to this questionable event and I can only hope they aren’t asking for receipts to prove we didn’t spend the money on a new set of wheels. Because VCLG is extra boss, they did a write-up on their club blog and they’re offering up the gourmet BBQ skills of Patrick Barrett to compete as a grillmeister in the BBQ cookoff. Unfortunately, I’m one of the two judges and Patrick hasn’t sent any personal funds to my PayPal account yet.

Barry Israel DDS + Orthodontics: Teeth whitening treatments which are sorely needed among cyclists and especially me. All those bugs between your teeth take a toll. And if these treatments don’t involve a high pressure sand blaster then I’m giving mine to someone else.

Forte Sportswear / FFWD Wheels: The sportswear is not for your wheels, although the wheels will make your sportswear go waaaaay faster. Forte understands that physics are a real thing, so even when you can’t change the space/time parameter, you can look great not doing it. Forte’s aero line is especially awesome.

Gear Grinderz Coffee: If you’ve been racing your bike at all in SoCal, and goodness knows most licensed racers haven’t, you know Gear Grinderz from their incredibly delicious coffee that jump-starts you hard enough that you temporarily forget you’re about to race with 100 other idiots, going full bore so that you can maybe get 45th or crash out all your front teeth.

Phil Gaimon: Phil is a legend, an institution, a hero, a myth, okay, a crazy fast ex-pro biker dude with a cookie fetish. He is also the progenitor of Phil’s Cookie Fondo, the best grand fondue you will ever do without a bowl of melted cheese. But in addition to the fondo which I hope you will sign up for, Phil will also be at the Donut Ride on 8/11, so you’ll get a chance to test your legs against one of the best. At least until we leave the Starbucks, at which point you’ll prolly get shelled and just be testing your legs against the same old hackers you always do.

Red Bull: Everyone knows Red Bull, a/k/a elixir of life. This is what you have after hangovers, before hangovers, during hangovers, and most importantly, before bike races. My favorite combo? 12 espresso shots, 4 Red Bulls, and a ride in the ambulance.

JoJe Bars: If you’re tired of Barbie Food (so christened by Dan Seivert), you’ll really love sinking your teeth into JoJe bars. They are healthy, fresh, made with zero ingredients from Chernobyl, and unusually for bike food, taste awesome. Two of the reasons that JoJe bars are special are John Abate and Jess Cerra, the owners, who are both accomplished bike racers and well-familiar with the travails of eating out of your back pocket.

Muscle Monster: (Confession: I had to look this up online because I don’t have any muscles.) Here’s what it is: “Monster athletes do not win by accident; it takes years of hard work and determination to be a champion. Need a little motivation to meet your personal goals? Meet your new coach in a bottle, Muscle Monster Energy Shake.” I think in my case they could have put a period after the word “win.”

Methods to Winning: This is the bike team that has done so much to make the First Annual Sixth All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards happen. The best way to get to know these men and women is to go to a bike race and watch them ride away from you. Then you can go hang out at their tent afterwards and chat.

Shift Mobile: Got a flat? Drop a chain? Need to overhaul your bottom bracket with three to go? Jason Morin at Shift Mobile has you covered, and for an extra surcharge he might even back his van out onto the course on the final turn to give you that separation from the field you weren’t able to get through bike handling and savvy positioning. All your bike needs, all the time, on the fly!

Topical Edge: If your you-know-whats ain’t feeling up to snuff, grab a tube of Topical Edge and in a matter of minutes you’ll be killing it. No, this isn’t a competitor for Viagra. Topical Edge is a cream for athletes that you rub on your legs which will, according to their web site, allow you to train harder, go longer, and recover quicker. Wait a minute …

Origin Clothing: If you think it’s easy to make quality cycling clothing, remember what a finicky, whiny, self-absorbed ninny the average cyclist is, and then imagine trying to make him/her happy with ANYTHING. Right. That’s what makes Origin unique. In addition to their DNA, which was brewed by Dr. Frankenstein right here in Los Angeles, it’s designed by bike racers for people who value comfort and style. Also for Stathis the Wily Greek and his beard.

Eliel Cycling Apparel: You know how it gets really hard to say something different over and over again? Well, that’s where I would be when it comes to Eliel except for this: I have three of their one-piece jersey/short speedsuits and although they haven’t made me any speedier, they are durable and comfortable beyond belief. However, dudes like Charon Smith, who is crazy speedy, also wears their stuff, so you know it is legit.

Velo Pasadena: Hrach Gevrikyan has been running VP for over thirty years in an industry where few last more than a couple of years. He’s generously donating a Velo Pasadena team kit and two pairs of Time pedals. A long time supporter of grass roots cycling, Velo Pasadena has been the preeminent shop in northern LA County forever. Hrach also knows the best Armenian place in Pasadena. Be nice to him and he might take you.

Play Again Now: This is a topical spray whose daily use, according to their web site, combats the soreness that occurs with intense physical activity, overuse, injury and age. If it also combats the soreness that occurs with being a worn out old shoe, I’ll take sixty cases, please.

Charity Pablove: This foundation is donating the kids’ games for the event. Pablove was founded to provide seed funding for pediatric cancer research. According to their web site, for every dollar the National Institutes of Health puts toward cancer, only four cents go to children’s cancer research. Pablove directly addresses this gross inequity, driving Powered by Pablove seed grants specifically to pediatric cancer researchers committed to finding treatments and cures. These $50,000 grants serve a very specific purpose—to give their recipients the data and evidence they need to qualify for larger grants, federal funding and go to clinical trial.

Folks I’ve Left Out: There are doubtless several worthy sponsors whose names and contributions I’ve omitted. It’s late Saturday afternoon, I have a monster 160-mile training ride to Ventura tomorrow, and as much as I love everyone, I figure the left-outs will hit me up with an email, I’ll add them in, and everyone will be happy. This only reaches four people anyway.



Making friends

July 6, 2018 § 6 Comments

I will cut to the chase scene. Nancy Linn of the PV Bike Chicks kicked in an incredibly generous $2,000 to support the infamous South Bay Cycling Awards in 2018, now in its sixth embarrassing year. The donation was made in the name of the Race for RP Fund. More about that later.

All of this started a few months ago with an email exchange, typical for me in that it was brief. My emails go like this:

Hi, Nancy

Would you have a few minutes to chat this week?



Of course this sounds like a solicitation for something, which it was. As Nancy told me later, “I thought you wanted money for the Wanky Awards.”

Instead, I’d had the idea of putting together a skills clinic with the PV Bike Chicks and working on some of the essential riding techniques whose importance I’d become keenly aware of as a result of riding with Yasuko, a new rider. I’d donate the time and they would buy me coffee. Nancy thought it would be fun and educational, so we began doing monthly sessions after I finished with the Thursday Flog Ride.

And you know, it was!

Cars and stuff

Occasionally Nancy would mention her husband and his interest in cars. Unfortunately, I am dead to the world of cars. Evens Stievenart, our local hammer, former professional race car driver, and car track racing instructor, has in the past talked to me a little about cars, but these are stillborn conversations because, cars.

Whereas other bike racers love to pick Evens’s brain about, you know, cars, I simply am not a car guy. And Nancy knew this the first time we ever met.

“I remember really well,” she said. “I was at the PV Bike Center and you drove up in some horrible old wreck, it was quite memorable.”

All I could think was, “Horrible old wreck? Doesn’t she know that was a CAMRY? Sure it might have had a couple hundred thousand miles on it, and it did make that funny clank when you put it in gear, and it smoked a bit, and vibrated a bit too much, and it tended to drip a bit of oil when you weren’t looking, and the windshield did have a few blind spots where you had to kind of look around the quarter-sized divots, and it did smell like beagle on the inside (especially on a rainy day), and there were some bits of rust peeking out from around the doors, but other than those flesh wounds that was a stand-up, respectable, take-it-to-the-Oscars ride.”

After that I started listening to Nancy a bit more carefully when she occasionally mentioned cars, and one day she was talking to one of the other Bike Chicks and I thought I heard her say her husband raced cars.

“Did you say your husband races cars?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

I thought about that for a while and wondered if racing cars was as expensive as racing bicycles. I mean, there are people out there with $15,000 bikes. “So, what kind of cars does he race?” I asked.

“He’s currently in a Ferrari,” she said.

I’d heard of those, and wondered if it had a lot of carbon in it. I figured it probably did. Then I went home and googled “How much does a Ferrari race car cost” and it turns out that they are more expensive than bicycles. Also, when they break or need a tune-up, you can’t drop them off at Boozy P.’s for half an hour, payable in beer.

Who knew?

Racing for a cause

It turns out that Nancy’s husband, Neil Langberg, does in fact race Ferraris (these are red cars made in Italy), but he and Nancy are also racing something else, and it’s got the awkward, hard to remember, doesn’t-really-roll-off-your-tongue name of “relapsing polychondritis.”

I could tell you what that is, but Nancy has done a much better job than I’ll ever do in this powerful documentary about an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s cartilage. In addition to the relentless pain and damage to the body’s organs that the disease can cause, it is a low-to-zero priority for medical research funding due to its rarity. Less than six people per million are afflicted with it, and research dollars on the national level are devoted to diseases that affect more people.

Nancy, who spent years suffering from relapsing polychondritis without knowing the cause, as it is extremely challenging to diagnose, finally got a definitive diagnosis and decided to do something positive about it. Enter Race for RP Fund, a fund that solicits donations and makes the money available to research, awareness, and advocacy programs through the Community Foundation of Louisville, which itself administers over half a billion dollars in philanthropic funds.

Nancy’s husband Neil put his own twist on the fundraising by sponsoring a racing team whose mission is to promote awareness of relapsing polychondritis.

Relapsing polychondritis and bikes

All of this is another way of saying that Nancy, married as she is to a hard core car racer, has zero trouble understanding the delusions and ridiculousness of bike racers. More importantly, she recognized that what is happening this year with the South Bay Cycling Awards is something that matters.

In short, for 2018 the South Bay Cycling Awards, also known by any number of much more disparaging names, is being held in conjunction with the All Clubs BBQ, a massive barbecue cookoff and picnic being held on August 12 at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. The purpose? To bring together all of the cycling communities, get people off the bike and out of the clown suits, and begin the process of building stronger American communities at a time when the forces of evil are doing everything they can to tear us apart.

The challenge faced by people with relapsing polychondritis is great. The illness is not widely known, research interest is low, and no cures are on the horizon, even the distant one. But like the challenge faced by our diverse cycling communities as we try to get from point A to point B without being maimed or killed, it’s something that will require people working together to fix the problem.

And the best place to start with people is … with people.

Thank you Nancy and Neil.


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