Boom (bike) box

May 7, 2020 § 9 Comments

If you work in a bike shop in L.A. during the stay at home order-that’s-more-of-a-suggestion, you are probably out of bikes. To say bike sales are booming is an understatement.

For whole ranges of bikes such as cruisers and kid bikes there is nothing available, anywhere.

For another range of bikes including low-end road/mountain/hybrid bikes and moderately priced e-bikes, well, those are all sold out, too.

For a range of bikes that aren’t even bikes, by which I mean smart indoor trainers and now dumb ones, too, nothing is available.

If, and only if, you’re looking for something in the highest end, there are still bikes to be had.

Since most of the above items are made in China and the global supply chain is mostly broken, don’t look for new bikes to be filling the shelves anytime soon. And once China’s factories begin operating at full capacity, expect a massive backlog in orders, further slowing down new bikes for purchase.

The bike boom seems to be going full tilt in equipment as well. Online prices haven’t dropped that much for derailleurs, tires, and … Rapha. Because in the middle of a pandemic cum Great Depression, what could possibly be more important than a new $300 jersey?

For the first time in modern memory, the bike shop is finally getting its due. If I had told you a couple of months ago that people would be standing in line to enter the Bike Palace in San Pedro, that they would sell out most of their inventory in a matter of weeks, that their repair services would be overwhelmed, and that PEOPLE HAD STOPPED HAGGLING OVER PRICES, you would have shaken your head and advised me to lay off the psychotropics.

People in the business thought there would be a big bump in the beginning of the pandemic, and there was. Everyone ran out to get their kid a bike and to “dust off” their crunchy cruiser with that euphemistic tune-up.

“I think she just needs to be cleaned up a bit.”

“Uh, sir, the chain has rusted off, the brakes don’t touch the rims, the tires and tubes have rotted, and the bottom bracket has frozen.”

“How much is that going to cost?”

“You’d be better off buying a new bike.”

“Okay, I’ll take one.”

“We don’t have any.”

“When will you have more?”

“I have no idea.”

“So what do I do?”

“We can refurbish your rusted hulk of junk for $445.29.”

“Okay. When will it be ready?”



This is the type of surreal exchange playing out in bike shops everywhere, violating all the rules of physics that govern bike shop purchases, which is really only one rule, which is “That’s too expensive I’ll get it online.”

After the first wave of customers, a funny thing happened. Parents were stuck at home with their kids and all the strip clubs were closed. Parents couldn’t hang out all day on Pornhub because the kids were using the computer for classes. So people started riding with their kids.

This was fun at first until the parents a/k/a Dad realized that riding with kids wasn’t fun at all, and was simply an extension of being indoors with them, minus the non-existent Pornhub access. This created the second wave of bike purchases.

“I want a bike.”

“We don’t have any.”

“What are those?”

“Those are high-end road bikes.”

“I want one.”

“Okay. What kind of riding do you do?”

“Anything that will let me go fast enough to get away from my fucking kids.”

That’s harder than it sounds, by the way, because the kids all got fit and fast in a week and Dad … didn’t.

The third wave is beginning, which is the wave that’s coming from the people who either bought bikes or who had old ones repaired, and actually rode them. Those bikes now need all manner of repair because one of the first things that grown men do when they get a new bike is leap off of it onto the ground, hard.

The third wave includes broken wheels, slashed tires, torn clothes, bashed derailleurs, and the saddest/highest charge bike shop work order ever: The I-tried-to-fix-it-myself-and-now-the-chain-is-in-Phoenix-please-help.

What we all want to know, though, is whether there will be a fourth wave once the stay-at-home-just-kidding order is lifted? How many of the newly purchased or totally refurbished bikes will find their way back into the darkest corner of the garage? How many riders will finally kick the car habit and discover that there is no freedom like bike freedom? How many starry-eyed children will set their hopes and dreams on the lofty goal of one day becoming a droopy, doped-up masters racer?

I don’t know.

But for now, I hope you aren’t shopping for a new bike.


What you can’t buy online

November 15, 2019 § 3 Comments

I had to run a couple of errands yesterday. Now that I don’t drive anymore, errands are a much more serious business than they used to be, me living at the top of Mt. Everest and all.

What I needed was the old lube & tube so that my chain would stop sawing and so I could to fix a flat if I got one. Easiest thing? Order online. Hardest thing? 14-mile ride to the Bike Palace in San Pedro.

As my #fakecoach says, “If it’s not hard, you’re doing it wrong.” So I was for sure doing it right because pushing those fat commuter tars up the hills on PV Drive felt like I was dragging a piano.

Baby Seal was at the shop, where he apparently lives, working his flippers to the bone. I hope Tony pays him $25.00/hr., minimum, for all the fuggin’ business he brings into that place.

“What do you need?”

“Lube & tube.”

“You want that taken care of it back?”

“Poker in front, liquor in rear?” I asked.

“Kinda.” Baby Seal looked at my tubeless setup. “You ever flat on those?”

“No. But one day it’s gonna happen and I’ll be stuck deep on Fig and 56th on a Friday night and if I can’t get it rolling again you’ll be reading about me in the crime reports.”

“You’re worried it won’t seal?”

“I’m worried, period.”

“Best bet is to take some of this.” He whipped out a giant bottle of goop with an attachment for what looked like a mini-enema bag.

“What is it?”

“If your flat won’t seal, you just pull the valve core, put some of this sealant in there, and you’re good to go.”

This reminded me of the time that I switched over to tubulars, in 1983. “How do you change a flat?” I’d asked Cactus Jack.

“Slap on a new one tar. The glue from the old one will hold the new one in place til you get home.”

“Can’t you glue on a new tar on the road?”

Cactus Jack looked at me from behind the beard and the drugs. “You can try.”

So I bought an extra tube of rim cement and when I got my first flat I tried to glue on the new tar. What I ended up with was rim cement everywhere except on the tar.

I thought about all that glue in my hair and on my fingertips back in ’83 as Baby Seal was jabbering on about valve cores and sealant and enema bags and “in a jiffy.”

“Can’t I just put a tube in there if it won’t seal?”

This wasn’t what Baby Seal wanted to hear. “Sure. It just takes longer.”

“Is there anything wrong with that?”

“It can be trickier than just shooting in some sealant, especially if the tire has been on the rim a while and doesn’t want to come off.” He paused. “Easily.”

This was like Cactus Jack trying to tell me not to try and glue on a tire mid-ride. Thankfully, after almost 37 years, I’d learned nothing. “I’ll just take the tube.”

“You got it,” he said.


Come together (right now)

March 11, 2019 § 8 Comments

On Saturday morning we dropped down the hill, quickly hitting 45 mph, each bit of velocity ramping up the cutting edge of the sharp wind that knifed through all the layers I’d carefully amassed. There wasn’t a lot of conversation en route to the 5th MVMNT Ride, but then again with me, there never is.

I’ve been told by people who know that I don’t talk much. It’s not as if there’s anything important or deep going on between my ears, but riding is a great time to shut up. Most of the bad things that can happen on a bike are prevented by silence and observation.

In fact, I recently told a guy who is working hard to improve his cycling that the two most important things are to shut up and watch. When you rode with Fields, you knew to shut up. First, you didn’t want to embarrass yourself. Everyone was listening, and memories were prodigious. Second, people didn’t talk a lot. It’s not that bicycling was serious business, but falling off your bicycle was. Third, there was the Man Code. Men in Texas are taciturn. Period.

Racers, start your vocal cords

Of the many great things about the MVMNT Rides for Friendship, Unity, and Diversity, perhaps the best is the slow speed. Fact: The slower you go, the less serious you are. And the less serious you are, the more you talk. And the more you talk, the more people you meet.

Cycling’s perfect chat zone is between 10 and 13 mph. Anything less than that and you might tip over. Any more than that, falling off starts to hurt.

We had gotten a marvelous break from the rain and cold of the last few months; it was a “chilly” 55, but sunny and windless.

I couldn’t believe how the ride has swollen. The final head count was upwards of 150 riders, and with each ride these events have become, bit by bit, more diverse. A few people even drove over from the West Side to join; a solid 20-mile haul through nasty LA traffic to enjoy conversation, new scenery, and the chance to trample a racial barrier or two.

Choosing space

Everyone who pays attention knows that the USA is a racially segregated nation, and Los Angeles is the poster child for this crime against humanity. Where you live is largely determined by the color of your skin.

Study after study shows that social barriers are reinforced by physical separation, and it makes sense. How can you relate to people with whom you never talk or interact?

With each iteration of this ride, more and more people are accepting the invitation to get out and share physical space with others, to get out of the cycling cocoons in which they normally pedal, and most especially to slow down and talk.

Helmets and pine needles

I didn’t talk with a lot of people, but I did spend most of my chat allotment with Tyra Lindsay, a woman who approached me about my bare head and wanted to know why. An hour later we were still talking … I can’t say I convinced her, but then again I wasn’t trying to.

What I was trying to do was have a conversation, one of those tennis games where you volley an idea, the other person sends it back over the net, and each side does their level best to keep the volley going, no one looking for the kill shot or the crazy topspin or the drop shot over the net.

In the process I learned she was from Alexandria, Louisiana, with lots of family in Marshall, just a few miles from where I spent my summers in the piney woods of East Texas. We shared memories about the smell of the red dirt, the wafting aroma of pine needles crunching beneath our feet, volleying, volleying, until we reached our destination at the Korean Friendship Bell, dismounted, and took in the view.

Afterwards we assembled at The Bike Palace in San Pedro, where we descended like locusts on the donuts and coffee before heading home.



Get a move[mnt] on!

March 8, 2019 § 2 Comments

Tomorrow is the first MVMNT Ride of 2019.

It leaves at 8:00 AM from 736 East Del Amo Boulevard in Carson, in front of the Buffalo Wild Wings.

The ride will be about four hours long and it will be slow. People will talk. Learn each others’ names. Not sprint for KOMs. Have a good time. Hopefully talk trash, at least a little.

The ride goes to the Korean Bell in San Pedro and finishes at The Bike Palace, where riders will be treated to sugar and caffeine as well as a chance to meet, shake hands with, and kiss the signet ring of JP “Baby Seal,” the legendary cyclist, pillow baby, ex-newsletter-ist, #socmed magician, and most all-round nice guy on earth after the apocalypse.

What is a MVMNT Ride, aside from something that’s missing a bunch of vowels? Glad you asked! It is a ride designed to get people of all ethnicities together, to break down racial barriers, to soften stereotypes, and to realize that we are all human beings who share the same basic, most fundamental and primitive human need of all: TO RIDE OUR FUGGIN’ BIKES!

Hope you can make it, even if it means getting out of your favorite socioeconomic cocoon! Remember, it’s not every day you get to shake hands with a seal.



A star is born!

October 16, 2018 § 19 Comments

Nothing very interesting ever gets into my inbox. But somehow, against all odds & filters, THIS DID!

For starters, if you read this love grenade and didn’t laugh there is something wrong with you. Not wrong as in “you had a bad day” but wrong as in “you are an incurably pompous jackass and probably a smelly, molded over asshole as well.”

Yeah, you.

The greatest bicycle kit controversy ever

No sooner had this awesome seal letter hit the Internet than its author, the infamous SB Baby Seal, began receiving calls to his cell and text messages galore from the Big Orange board. He did what anyone with a brain does when such notifications arrive, that is, he ignored them and kept working.

That’s when the pressure ratcheted and the phone calls began arriving at his place of employment, and, well he had to take them.

It seems that Baby Seal committed two pretty egregious infractions:

  1. He made fun of the Big O 2019 kit, which could hurt sales.
  2. He betrayed the trust and confidence of the club’s private FB group users by copying and pasting unattributed snippets of their comments about the kit, then sending it out in an unauthorized email.

So, let’s review.

There was actually a living, breathing, sentient human being who thought that you could make fun of this:


Yeah. Because these designs are so, uh, serious?

How do you make fun of Green Jizz v. Orange Nutter? Answer: You don’t have to. They are already so juiced up with lobotomy that words, like these ones, are superfluous.

And by the way, these kits weren’t created by a person. They were created by a committee over several MONTHS. If it never occurred to anyone that these were the goofiest fucking things ever to curse the eyes of man, then shame on you twice: Once for not knowing, and twice for proceeding anyway.

The great Facebag betrayal of 2019

With regard to the “betrayal” of the “confidence” of those on Facegag who had an “expectation of privacy” that their “private comments wouldn’t be shared,” I offer you the following legal analysis: Bwaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

You really think anything on the ‘Net in general, and the ‘Bag in particular is private? Did you not read the 42-page EULA that goes along with your Facebook registration? Do you know what the “share” button does? Is this the first time you have ever taken the Internet out for a drive without Dad in the passenger seat? Can I sum FB’s policy up for you?

We can freely monetize and use everything you write or post, including all private data you don’t even know that you are submitting to us.

More juicily:

You are a complete fucking moron if you think Facebook is a private forum. Yep, you.

So to recap, the kits are garishly, over-the-top ridonculous, and no, yimmer-yammer yip-yap on Facebag isn’t attorney work product that’s protected by the attorney-client privilege. WHO KNEW???

All hail the First Amendment

Baby Seal’s newsletter achieved its aim. It pissed off people who think their opinions are beyond criticism. It made people laugh. It garnered a couple of new members for our team, Big Orange, who predictably liked the kit and proved the adage “There is no bad press (although there is unquestionably bad taste).”

And of course it drove a few sales for the Bike Palace. How do I know this? Because immediately after reading it I drove down and bought an inner tube and a Bike Palace t-shirt. You can have my First Amendment when you pry my dead, sweat-soaked Bike Palace t-shirt off my back.

Like the shrunken pricks who send me outraged cancellation emails saying “You made fun of my favorite children’s charity even though it is actually a scam that harms sick children!” or “You don’t wear a helmet which makes you a child molester!” the people who got skewered by Baby Seal deserved it.

Take a deep breath and be thankful that there are still people out there who aren’t afraid to poke fun at the smelly turd you piled onto your plate and tried to tell everyone was actually a filet, and don’t forget to shop Bike Palace or to join my club Big Orange, which despite the occasional stick wedged up its butt, is still a pretty awesome club.



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