For a fist full of … socks

March 31, 2019 § 8 Comments

On Saturday we rode over to the NOW Ride. The previous week I had been dropped very early when the Subaru Santa Monica pain train led by Evens Stievenart rolled away at express train speeds on PCH.

This week the Subaru team was gone, but in their place, and indeed he replaces an entire team, was Phil Gaimon. Oh, and beast Jeff Mahin, and a couple of other ornery fellows.

We were trucking along PCH at about 35 and I saw Tony Manzella. I handed him a couple pairs of socks.

“Thanks, dude,” he said. Tony has enormous feet along with an enormous heart and lungs and my South Bay socks are the only ones that will fit his boxcars. He tucked them under his jersey.

This was only my third NOW Ride and a lot of people were giving me the stink eye because of my jaunty cloth cap, hairy legs, and general frailty. At Pepperdine Hill, where I always get dropped, I got dropped. First, Phil and Jeff and their pal rode away. Next, a clot of chasers rolled away.

I had about ten bike lengths to catch back onto the chasers but you know that is never going to happen. This time somehow it did. A little dude breezed by and I glommed on. He got me over the top and gave it 100% to close to about five bike lengths. I waited until I judged him spent and dashed past, barely connecting.

There wasn’t any rest, and what had started with 70 or 1,000 people was now down to the three guys off the front and a chase of about 20, make that 18, I mean 17, 16, 15, and finally fourteen. I was the last guy, dangling, and barely hanging on by a meat string each time the young fellows surged, trying to shake loose the old and infirm, me.

As we approached the descent into Zuma, I saw Jeff and Phil on the side of the road. They had stopped with their friend, who flatted, which instantly transformed our chase group into the lead group. At the bottom it is a flat run-in, a couple of miles, to the sprunt finish at Trancas Canyon Road.

The young fellows kept it single file. I hunkered down on Tony’s wheel in last place. I was pretty pleased with myself because I was gonna get fourteenth on the NOW Ride, a miracle. I was already writing up the glorious blog. It was gonna be wondrous.

With about 500 yards to go, Tony glanced back at me. Tony only glances back at you for one reason. It’s because he expects you to follow and he don’t want no excuses.

Tony has done this to me before and it follows a script: He accelerates and I get dropped.

He jumped hard, crazy, insanely, 8,000 gigawatts hard. I don’t know if it was because I was ovulating or because of my oval chain rings … oh, what am I saying???? It was because of my JAUNTY CLOTH CAP that I hung onto Tony’s wheel.

He blew past the front so fast that they couldn’t have caught him if they’d gotten advance notice by telegraph, and once he is going if you are in his draft it is like being towed by a barge that is going 500 knots. “Man, this is great,” I thought, followed immediately by “Man, I don’t know if I can keep this up,” followed by “Fuck this hurts,” followed by “He’s riding me off his wheel. Again.”

At that second he slowed and looked back. “Go, Seth!” he shouted.

I didn’t know what to do. I can’t sprint. I could barely pedal I was so tired. I had no idea what was the correct reaction in such circumstances, so I blurted out what I guess they don’t do in the last 100m of a lead-out at Paris-Roubaix, which is shout back, “YOU GO!”

He shook his head. “Seth!” he commanded. “Go!”

I looked back and saw the piranhas charging hard, so I slingshotted around Tony and got to the imaginary finish line first at the over-ripe age of 55. The young piranhas were not too happy and they kind of glared at my jaunty cloth cap, but not for long because there was a giant, slowing dump truck turning right and we almost slammed into the back of it. Then Tony wheeled into the parking lot of the gas station and shouted in his chain gang boss voice, “Good job, Seth. You just won the NOW Ride!”

On the way back home with Baby Seal and Kristie, I saw a tempting berm of sand and dirt and mud and decided to celebrate my NOW win with a display of the amazing bike handling skills that made me who I am today.

END

For a fist full of … socks

March 31, 2019 § 8 Comments

On Saturday we rode over to the NOW Ride. The previous week I had been dropped very early when the Subaru Santa Monica pain train led by Evens Stievenart rolled away at express train speeds on PCH.

This week the Subaru team was gone, but in their place, and indeed he replaces an entire team, was Phil Gaimon. Oh, and beast Jeff Mahin, and a couple of other ornery fellows.

We were trucking along PCH at about 35 and I saw Tony Manzella. I handed him a couple pairs of socks.

“Thanks, dude,” he said. Tony has enormous feet along with an enormous heart and lungs and my South Bay socks are the only ones that will fit his boxcars. He tucked them under his jersey.

This was only my third NOW Ride and a lot of people were giving me the stink eye because of my jaunty cloth cap, hairy legs, and general frailty. At Pepperdine Hill, where I always get dropped, I got dropped. First, Phil and Jeff and their pal rode away. Next, a clot of chasers rolled away.

I had about ten bike lengths to catch back onto the chasers but you know that is never going to happen. This time somehow it did. A little dude breezed by and I glommed on. He got me over the top and gave it 100% to close to about five bike lengths. I waited until I judged him spent and dashed past, barely connecting.

There wasn’t any rest, and what had started with 70 or 1,000 people was now down to the three guys off the front and a chase of about 20, make that 18, I mean 17, 16, 15, and finally fourteen. I was the last guy, dangling, and barely hanging on by a meat string each time the young fellows surged, trying to shake loose the old and infirm, me.

As we approached the descent into Zuma, I saw Jeff and Phil on the side of the road. They had stopped with their friend, who flatted, which instantly transformed our chase group into the lead group. At the bottom it is a flat run-in, a couple of miles, to the sprunt finish at Trancas Canyon Road.

The young fellows kept it single file. I hunkered down on Tony’s wheel in last place. I was pretty pleased with myself because I was gonna get fourteenth on the NOW Ride, a miracle. I was already writing up the glorious blog. It was gonna be wondrous.

With about 500 yards to go, Tony glanced back at me. Tony only glances back at you for one reason. It’s because he expects you to follow and he don’t want no excuses.

Tony has done this to me before and it follows a script: He accelerates and I get dropped.

He jumped hard, crazy, insanely, 8,000 gigawatts hard. I don’t know if it was because I was ovulating or because of my oval chain rings … oh, what am I saying???? It was because of my JAUNTY CLOTH CAP that I hung onto Tony’s wheel.

He blew past the front so fast that they couldn’t have caught him if they’d gotten advance notice by telegraph, and once he is going if you are in his draft it is like being towed by a barge that is going 500 knots. “Man, this is great,” I thought, followed immediately by “Man, I don’t know if I can keep this up,” followed by “Fuck this hurts,” followed by “He’s riding me off his wheel. Again.”

At that second he slowed and looked back. “Go, Seth!” he shouted.

I didn’t know what to do. I can’t sprint. I could barely pedal I was so tired. I had no idea what was the correct reaction in such circumstances, so I blurted out what I guess they don’t do in the last 100m of a lead-out at Paris-Roubaix, which is shout back, “YOU GO!”

He shook his head. “Seth!” he commanded. “Go!”

I looked back and saw the piranhas charging hard, so I slingshotted around Tony and got to the imaginary finish line first at the over-ripe age of 55. The young piranhas were not too happy and they kind of glared at my jaunty cloth cap, but not for long because there was a giant, slowing dump truck turning right and we almost slammed into the back of it. Then Tony wheeled into the parking lot of the gas station and shouted in his chain gang boss voice, “Good job, Seth. You just won the NOW Ride!”

On the way back home with Baby Seal and Kristie, I saw a tempting berm of sand and dirt and mud and decided to celebrate my NOW win with a display of the amazing bike handling skills that made me who I am today.

END

He’s a real NOWhere man

May 20, 2018 § 6 Comments

I got a text from Pornstache. “6:40 AM CotKU. Yerba Buena, 100+. It will be fun.”

Despite the obvious lie I showed up, along with Surfer, Ruins, LoLo, Megajoules, and Medium Banana. Pornstache was in a great mood. “If we hustle we can make the NOW ride and get a free tow up PCH, then continue on to Yerba.”

This made no sense at all, first and foremost because there are no “free” tows in cycling, and certainly not on the NOW ride. Not that I’d ever done it.

In fact, for years I had studiously avoided it. It is the West Side’s answer to the Donut, minus all the climbing. If rumor were to be believed, the NOW ride was a 28-30 mph jaunt up the coast in an insane bike mob of 70 to 100 idiots. It begins in Santa Monica, but that first eight or nine miles of blistering speed on the pancake flat portion of PCH going to Malibu is just the warm up.

The grenade goes off on Pepperdine Hill, and I’ve eaten plenty of grenades in my cycling life. No desire to eat another one.

“Dude,” I said to Pornstache. “Have you ever done the NOW ride?”

“Nope. But it goes up PCH so we can just hop in.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, like you can hop into a steel foundry.”

You shoulda been here yesterday

During my surfing career as the world’s biggest kook EVER, I learned early that no matter how great the surf was when you paddled out, as soon as you commented on its awesomeness the guy next to you would shrug, bored. “Yeah, it’s okay. But you shoulda been here yesterday. Triple overhead, low tide, and hollow AF.”

We joined the NOW ride as they descended from Santa Monica towards PCH and I made mental note of the hitters. Pain was there. Head Down James was there. SoCal Cycling dude was there. Charon was there. Engel was there with a gnarly looking teammate. And there were a dozen or so other bonesnapping riders who were sweating testosterone, in addition to our South Bay contributions, especially Megajoules.

I rode up next to Head Down James. “Hey, man. How’s this ride shake out?”

“You’ve never done it before?” he asked incredulously.

“No.”

“Things get pretty lively on Pepperdine Hill. I was dropped there the last two weeks when the hitters showed up. It was hard, man.”

My stomach churned. I had never not been dropped by Head Down James. And if he was calling someone else a hitter, what did that make me, besides a roach under the heel of a boot?

Next I rode up to Pain. “What’s up, Tony?” I said.

“Hey, man, good to see ya! You picked a good week. None of the hitters are here this week. Should be easy.”

“Triple overhead and hollow last week, huh?”

Pain laughed. “Exactly.”

I felt a little squirt in my chamois as we hit PCH and the pace immediately went from languid to Very Effin Fast. I hunkered down over the bars and sat at the back, glued to Head Down James. Whatever was going to happen, he would be there.

Bleating of the lambs

According to Head Down James for whom this was a warm-up for what would be his 140-mile, 12k feet of climbing “average day,” we were doing 28, but it didn’t hurt at all tucked in at the back, sucking wheel for all I was worth while the worthies up front gnashed and mashed. And before I knew it we were approaching the bottom of Pepperdine Hill.

By now I knew that there was zero chance of making the split. So I came off of Head Down James’s wheel and surfed over to Surfer’s, who had slotted in second wheel behind Pornstache. I wondered what the hell Pornstache was doing at the front on a ride he’d never even done before at the exact moment the Brownings were about to open fire.

I soon found out as he lit the fuse at the bottom of the hill, quickly gapping out Surfer.

Just so you understand, Pepperdine Hill isn’t long and it isn’t steep. I’m not great with distances and you can find it on Strava if you really want to know what it’s like. Maybe half a mile and seven percent? I dunno.

It doesn’t really matter because about halfway up my legs caught fire. Not that gradual heating up where you start to think “Uh-oh, I am fucked,” but the sudden injection of molten lava and acid into every muscle at once, and the pain hits you like a Trump speech, nasty, awful, unbearable, loathsome, and filled with vileness and bile.

Surfer kept going and I heard the hoofbeats of the onrushing herd, the sound intoning “droppage” from all those carbon wheels starting to accelerate at the very moment I had decided to decelerate in the other direction. [Reader’s note: Technically, acceleration is a change in velocity over time, so acceleration can be both positive, or negative. Unfortunately, along came the automobile, and engineers simply couldn’t have a positive and a negative accelerator pedal. Too sciencey, and the general populace became acquainted with negative acceleration as deceleration.]

The wisdom of Daniel Holloway

However, my decision to post up at the front hadn’t been completely dumb reflex. Best U.S. Bike Racer Daniel Holloway had once told me that it’s better to be at the front of a climb and then drift back as the faster riders pass, trying to latch onto the very end, than it is to be at the back of the chain and try to match their accelerations.

The only problem with his strategy was the “latch on” part.

Elijah blew by. Charon blew by. Head Down James Blew by. Pain blew by. DNA dudes blew by. SoCal Cycling dude blew by. Megajoules FLEW by. Then a string of complete strangers blew by. In the horror fog I got that funny feeling that I was the last guy, and unable to look back, I grabbed the final wheel in the sweep.

There were only about a hundred yards to go. Only. Kind of like “only another hundred yards with both thumbs slammed in the car door.”

If Mr. Scott had been in charge he would have uttered more obscenities than Howard Stern, but the engine was engulfed with flames, smoke, poisonous gas, and eruptions of plutonium from its cracked nuclear core. I played every mind game in my thin and tattered book of tricks until I came to the last page, which was ugly, brutal, and jagged around the edges and writ large: “Don’t quit, wanker!”

Everything went dark around me except the stranger’s wheel, and at that very moment when the collapse of willpower and muscular power intersect, I was over the top. At that precise moment of course the beasts at the front jumped. I mechanically stood, and what I did wasn’t a jump, or even a hop, barely even a skip, but it connected me to the caboose.

I glanced back only to see the brokedick remnants of the peloton smeared along the roadside in little clumps like bugsplat on a windshield.

“You made it,” Pain said with a grin, as if he’d just strolled around the block with a puppy. “Good job.”

I said something no one could understand. Me, either.

Freedom isn’t free, at least on the NOW

To make a miserable story less so, additional people got ejected from the lead group. I brought up the rear as we rolled into the first rest stop at Trancas. Pornstache looked breezy.

“Great idea, getting a free tow with the NOW ride,” I mumbled.

“Aw, come on,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad.”

I looked around at the other riders, none of whom was within ten years, and most of whom weren’t within twenty. “Yes,” I said. “It was.”

Before long the ambitious plan to ride Yerba Buena, an endless, badly paved, faraway road of death had been reconditioned into a trip up Decker Lane, a less endless, well paved, much steeper road of death. I went along, got to the top and gave up, turning tail and riding home.

Fortunately, I was overtaken at Zuma by two very fresh dudes from team Every Man Jack. They set the needle at 26 and hauled me back to Sunset in no time, which was great, but which left me with another 30 miles to go and no legs to get there with. I got to see a motorcycle collision, a police rolling enclosure along PCH for a group of marchers, and my friends Deb Sullivan, Kristina Ooi, Alx Bns, and Matt Wikstrom, all in the course of my ride home.

When I got back, I was, um, tired. Or should I say a zombie?

In any event, if you ever start thinking it’s NOW or never, I encourage you to choose never.

END

———————–

This is called method journalism, where I don’t report on things, I do them and then report on them. As a result, my legs are killing me. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

1

He’s a real NOWhere man

May 20, 2018 § 6 Comments

I got a text from Pornstache. “6:40 AM CotKU. Yerba Buena, 100+. It will be fun.”

Despite the obvious lie I showed up, along with Surfer, Ruins, LoLo, Megajoules, and Medium Banana. Pornstache was in a great mood. “If we hustle we can make the NOW ride and get a free tow up PCH, then continue on to Yerba.”

This made no sense at all, first and foremost because there are no “free” tows in cycling, and certainly not on the NOW ride. Not that I’d ever done it.

In fact, for years I had studiously avoided it. It is the West Side’s answer to the Donut, minus all the climbing. If rumor were to be believed, the NOW ride was a 28-30 mph jaunt up the coast in an insane bike mob of 70 to 100 idiots. It begins in Santa Monica, but that first eight or nine miles of blistering speed on the pancake flat portion of PCH going to Malibu is just the warm up.

The grenade goes off on Pepperdine Hill, and I’ve eaten plenty of grenades in my cycling life. No desire to eat another one.

“Dude,” I said to Pornstache. “Have you ever done the NOW ride?”

“Nope. But it goes up PCH so we can just hop in.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, like you can hop into a steel foundry.”

You shoulda been here yesterday

During my surfing career as the world’s biggest kook EVER, I learned early that no matter how great the surf was when you paddled out, as soon as you commented on its awesomeness the guy next to you would shrug, bored. “Yeah, it’s okay. But you shoulda been here yesterday. Triple overhead, low tide, and hollow AF.”

We joined the NOW ride as they descended from Santa Monica towards PCH and I made mental note of the hitters. Pain was there. Head Down James was there. SoCal Cycling dude was there. Charon was there. Engel was there with a gnarly looking teammate. And there were a dozen or so other bonesnapping riders who were sweating testosterone, in addition to our South Bay contributions, especially Megajoules.

I rode up next to Head Down James. “Hey, man. How’s this ride shake out?”

“You’ve never done it before?” he asked incredulously.

“No.”

“Things get pretty lively on Pepperdine Hill. I was dropped there the last two weeks when the hitters showed up. It was hard, man.”

My stomach churned. I had never not been dropped by Head Down James. And if he was calling someone else a hitter, what did that make me, besides a roach under the heel of a boot?

Next I rode up to Pain. “What’s up, Tony?” I said.

“Hey, man, good to see ya! You picked a good week. None of the hitters are here this week. Should be easy.”

“Triple overhead and hollow last week, huh?”

Pain laughed. “Exactly.”

I felt a little squirt in my chamois as we hit PCH and the pace immediately went from languid to Very Effin Fast. I hunkered down over the bars and sat at the back, glued to Head Down James. Whatever was going to happen, he would be there.

Bleating of the lambs

According to Head Down James for whom this was a warm-up for what would be his 140-mile, 12k feet of climbing “average day,” we were doing 28, but it didn’t hurt at all tucked in at the back, sucking wheel for all I was worth while the worthies up front gnashed and mashed. And before I knew it we were approaching the bottom of Pepperdine Hill.

By now I knew that there was zero chance of making the split. So I came off of Head Down James’s wheel and surfed over to Surfer’s, who had slotted in second wheel behind Pornstache. I wondered what the hell Pornstache was doing at the front on a ride he’d never even done before at the exact moment the Brownings were about to open fire.

I soon found out as he lit the fuse at the bottom of the hill, quickly gapping out Surfer.

Just so you understand, Pepperdine Hill isn’t long and it isn’t steep. I’m not great with distances and you can find it on Strava if you really want to know what it’s like. Maybe half a mile and seven percent? I dunno.

It doesn’t really matter because about halfway up my legs caught fire. Not that gradual heating up where you start to think “Uh-oh, I am fucked,” but the sudden injection of molten lava and acid into every muscle at once, and the pain hits you like a Trump speech, nasty, awful, unbearable, loathsome, and filled with vileness and bile.

Surfer kept going and I heard the hoofbeats of the onrushing herd, the sound intoning “droppage” from all those carbon wheels starting to accelerate at the very moment I had decided to decelerate in the other direction. [Reader’s note: Technically, acceleration is a change in velocity over time, so acceleration can be both positive, or negative. Unfortunately, along came the automobile, and engineers simply couldn’t have a positive and a negative accelerator pedal. Too sciencey, and the general populace became acquainted with negative acceleration as deceleration.]

The wisdom of Daniel Holloway

However, my decision to post up at the front hadn’t been completely dumb reflex. Best U.S. Bike Racer Daniel Holloway had once told me that it’s better to be at the front of a climb and then drift back as the faster riders pass, trying to latch onto the very end, than it is to be at the back of the chain and try to match their accelerations.

The only problem with his strategy was the “latch on” part.

Elijah blew by. Charon blew by. Head Down James Blew by. Pain blew by. DNA dudes blew by. SoCal Cycling dude blew by. Megajoules FLEW by. Then a string of complete strangers blew by. In the horror fog I got that funny feeling that I was the last guy, and unable to look back, I grabbed the final wheel in the sweep.

There were only about a hundred yards to go. Only. Kind of like “only another hundred yards with both thumbs slammed in the car door.”

If Mr. Scott had been in charge he would have uttered more obscenities than Howard Stern, but the engine was engulfed with flames, smoke, poisonous gas, and eruptions of plutonium from its cracked nuclear core. I played every mind game in my thin and tattered book of tricks until I came to the last page, which was ugly, brutal, and jagged around the edges and writ large: “Don’t quit, wanker!”

Everything went dark around me except the stranger’s wheel, and at that very moment when the collapse of willpower and muscular power intersect, I was over the top. At that precise moment of course the beasts at the front jumped. I mechanically stood, and what I did wasn’t a jump, or even a hop, barely even a skip, but it connected me to the caboose.

I glanced back only to see the brokedick remnants of the peloton smeared along the roadside in little clumps like bugsplat on a windshield.

“You made it,” Pain said with a grin, as if he’d just strolled around the block with a puppy. “Good job.”

I said something no one could understand. Me, either.

Freedom isn’t free, at least on the NOW

To make a miserable story less so, additional people got ejected from the lead group. I brought up the rear as we rolled into the first rest stop at Trancas. Pornstache looked breezy.

“Great idea, getting a free tow with the NOW ride,” I mumbled.

“Aw, come on,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad.”

I looked around at the other riders, none of whom was within ten years, and most of whom weren’t within twenty. “Yes,” I said. “It was.”

Before long the ambitious plan to ride Yerba Buena, an endless, badly paved, faraway road of death had been reconditioned into a trip up Decker Lane, a less endless, well paved, much steeper road of death. I went along, got to the top and gave up, turning tail and riding home.

Fortunately, I was overtaken at Zuma by two very fresh dudes from team Every Man Jack. They set the needle at 26 and hauled me back to Sunset in no time, which was great, but which left me with another 30 miles to go and no legs to get there with. I got to see a motorcycle collision, a police rolling enclosure along PCH for a group of marchers, and my friends Deb Sullivan, Kristina Ooi, Alx Bns, and Matt Wikstrom, all in the course of my ride home.

When I got back, I was, um, tired. Or should I say a zombie?

In any event, if you ever start thinking it’s NOW or never, I encourage you to choose never.

END

———————–

This is called method journalism, where I don’t report on things, I do them and then report on them. As a result, my legs are killing me. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

1

Pumpkin spice

November 19, 2017 Comments Off on Pumpkin spice

Every fall, Starbucks pumps out its seasonal offering of pumpkin spice latte. It sounds great and rings in the autumn excesses of too much sugar, too much food, too much booze, and too many prescription medications, but when you think about it, it doesn’t really sound all that great.

Who eats pumpkin? It’s a giant, orange, nasty veggie-fruity thing that stinks and doesn’t taste very good. Pumpkin salad? Pumpkin soup? Pumpkin steak? Pumpkin burger? Ahhh … no, thanks.

Still, you order one anyway because it looks and feels like fall and it’s extra points in your quest to get a free fifty cent drink for every $150 dollars you spend, and you’re usually doing okay until about halfway through, when you start to get queasy from the pure sugar that is 100% sugar and all the completely sugary sugar that fills half the cup, but you keep slurping away, mixing in the whipped cream sugar with the rest of the sugar, until somehow you get to the bottom of the cup, and there it is: A nasty, orange-brown slurry of toxic sludge that suddenly you can’t believe you ate. You stare at it, grossed out, then maybe you fiddle with the end of your straw and suck down a few drops, which are plain old nasty, like drinking the dregs from the sippy cup of a two-year-old who has a bad cold.

In short, you feel terrible. Sugar bombed, 1,200 calories into the red (it’s only 8:00 AM), and, if you’re feeling really guilty you look up the ingredients on the Internet and learn what you already knew. There isn’t even any pumpkin in it, anyway.

pumpkin_spice

Fact is, we have a little seasonal offering like that right here in L.A. It’s called the Dogtown Ride. It’s a special product only sold in fall. You get tagged on Facebag by Tony Manzella, the ride’s progenitor, or you get a private text message if you’re not ‘bagging it anymore, and at 8:00 AM at Dogtown Coffee in Santa Monica the fastest cyclists in L.A. show up to do some early season polishing, and you’re gonna be the whetstone.

Like the pumpkin spice latte, I felt a vague attraction to this seasonal offering, even though I’ve done it before and knew that nothing good ever comes from it. I met up at the appointed hour, thankfully getting there an hour earlier so that I could enjoy what truly is the phenomenal brewing of Dogtown Coffee (no pumpkin spice latte there, folks), and so that I could let my stomach settle.

In small groups the riders appeared, each one possessed of the same silly delusion, that they would be able to hold the pace with Tony, Head Down James, Thomas Rennier, Eric B., bearded British dude, ex-cross country champ-turned-tridork, Kate V., Katie D., or any of the other people who were absolutely going to ride away, see ya. I exited Dogtown and paid homage to Tony and his dad, Rich, and noted that Tony had removed his Garmin. I didn’t know if this was his message that he is no longer into data, or a suggestion that he wasn’t going to go that hard, a feint designed to fool us pack fodder into a few moments of satisfaction.

I chatted with Elijah, who was now on his third team in three years, with Casey, with Patrick Barrett, with Josh, with Joe Pugliese, and with a couple of other riders as we pedaled through Santa Monica. It was sunny, beautiful, warm, and promised to be a horrible day on the bike.

The first climb, Bienveneda Avenue, might be a misspelling of the Spanish word “bienvenida,” which means “welcome.” Like the pumpkin spice missing the pumpkin, there was no welcome in Bienveneda, only the shock and awe as clumps of eager cyclists dashed past me, dangled in front for a bit, and then exploded, spectacularly, on the horribly steep climb. I plodded to the top, where the leaders had already finished checking into #socmed and were ready for the next fake ingredient of this foul-tasting fall seasonal “fun” ride.

Next on the ingredient list was Palisades Drive, much longer and much less steep until you got to the last part, which was just as long as just as steep. The Santa Monica/BMW riders shelled the entire field. I hung on for a bit before getting dropped, then got caught by Eric Bruins, who towed me the rest of the way up. Dave Holland, Michael Penta, Chuck Huang, Christina Oi, Tony Sells, David Mack, and countless others reached the top with the done look of a steak left on the grill overnight.

By now the full effect of the pumpkin spice was hitting our digestive tracts, which meant it was perfect timing to descend Palisades at 50+ mph, replete with riders squatting on their top tubes, massive chugholes blowing tires off the rim, Ferraris coming by in the Number One lane at 80, and everyone behaving as if a head-first fall onto the pavement would be “just a scratch.” We reached PCH and Tony, along with the Santa Monica zombies, beat the pedals all the way to Pepperdine Hill. Even tucked onto a wheel I was in pain. Many riders decided that they’d had enough and went home.

Like a fool, I continued.

We charged up Malibu Canyon Road, where hairy English dude dropped everyone, then created a small group of leaders. The rest of us clumped together on the windy, endless climb, wishing it would either end or finish or conclude or terminate, but it didn’t. I took one last pull, and although I failed to bridge, I did manage to ride everyone in the group off my wheel except four others, who, when I swung over, charged past.

One by one I got caught by everyone I had dropped, and was dropped myself; just me and the dregs in the bottom of the pumpkin spice cup, wondering why I’d eaten so much orange vomit. A few hours later I got home, depleted, cramped, and thoroughly looking forward to the next one. After all, Dogtown Ride only comes around a couple of times a year. And who’d want to miss out on that?

END

———————–

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My KOM

October 17, 2017 § 15 Comments

I’m not big on the Stravver, and not least of all because its welcome page says “Connecting the World’s Athletes.” Newsflash: I ain’t no athlete. I’m a creaky old profamateur masters bicycle delusioner.

Occasionally, however, I will be forced to participate in a KOM conversation, where someone who doesn’t have any KOMs is talking about KOMs, kind of like me talking about a full head of hair.

“I don’t have hardly any KOMs,” I will meekly say.

The person will look sadly at me. “That’s just because you don’t go after them,” he will answer, trying to make me feel better.

“No, it’s because I suck.”

“Aw, come on,” the person will whine, sensing a dose of reality in the offing. “You could get tons if you tried.”

“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve tried. Here in the South Bay there are no KOMs available to me. Lane, Spencer, Chris Tregillis … the KOMs are all theirs.”

However, I do have three KOMs on the Stravver. Two of them suck and you could take them with little effort. One of them is for the Wednesday Bro Ride, a loop that has a bunch of lights and stuff, and only twenty-five people have ever done it. The course record is 1:45 and some seconds. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could snap up this KOM without hardly breaking a sweat.

The other one is the “neutral” on Western, the part of the Donut Ride that goes through San Pedro. It’s a more legit than the “brochelada” segment; the KOM is nine minutes flat and it has been stravvered by about 1,800 people. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could take this one too–it’s got the word “neutral” in it, after all–but your legs are going to have to sting a little bit. So go ahead and grab it. Be my guest.

Then I’ve got one last KOM, and I think I’ll be hanging onto it for a little while longer. It’s on Vista del Mar, 2.1 miles, the segment rolling out on NPR. I share it with Eric Anderson, and the segment has been recorded on the Stravver 4,107 times. We set this in a seven-man rotation last January including Dave Ellis, Ramon Ramos, Peyton Cooke, Jon Paris, and Kristie Fox doing an alt-NPR ride called “The 6:50.” As is often the case, we had a tailwind. And we went pretty hard. Unlike my other KOMs on the Stravver, this leaderboard is littered with hitters. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you might not be able to take this one, but if you do, you’re going to need some help, and you’re going to have to like the taste of your own puke.

But none of those KOMs that I got on the Stravver compared to the one I got on Saturday, which was snatched away the moment that the other riders uploaded their data. This was on the Donut of All Donuts, which will be the subject of a future blog, and which occurred this past Saturday.

Every year when we have the South Bay Cycling Awards, which is on a Saturday, we also have the biggest Donut of the year. Last year some of the monsters from North County showed up–Josh Stockinger, Phil Tinstman, as well as a big contingent of West Side killers. I was dropped into the meat grinder and spit out pretty quickly.

This year Ryan Dahl, another North County tough guy, made the trek, and the full Santa Monica BMW/Helen’s squad showed up, led by Tony Manzella and “reinforced” by Alex Barnes, Matt Wikstrom, and the rest of their team. Diego Binatena, who holds the KOM on the Switchbacks was there, evergreen Rudy Napolitano, along with Derek Brauch and a bunch of other bad boys. For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, I didn’t even ride to the Domes on the first climb, quitting at the college after trying to follow a pace to the base of the Switchbacks that left me in tatters.

So you can imagine how my heart went pitter-patter the moment I uploaded my ride on the Stravver and saw a little crown for the 6:36 segment through San Pedro. Whaaaaat? A KOM on the hardest day of the year on one of the hardest Donuts ever stacked with the RuggedMaxx II wrecking crew? “It must be a mistake,” I thought, because although I remembered going balls out up Western, trading the front a couple of times with David Wells and everyone else just sitting on, I couldn’t have imagined it was a KOM effort. I’d been off the bike for two weeks, I have tendinitis, and it’s friggin’ October, fer fugg’s sake.

Well … as soon as the uploads started, it was gone as quickly as it had come. David Ellis sneaked by me a second or two, and a handful of other sitters equaled my faux KOM due to the way the Stravver works, which I don’t understand, but it has something to do with how if you start at the back and use the draft of the group to move up you somehow are going faster than the people who stay in the same place. Kind of makes sense but it really doesn’t, like why rednecks don’t want free healthcare. The Stravver is obviously flawed to begin with, putting me at the top of any leaderboard for any reason.

Getting that one faux KOM made my weekend, even though it’s all gone now. I got to brag about it all day and night at the Wankys, refusing to check my phone so I could honestly say “I have the KOM going through Pedro.” And I did. And at 53-almost-54 years of age, it may have been brief but I’ll take it.

diego_binatena

Diego Binatena solo on the Donut. Photo by JP Baby Seal.

END

———————–

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My KOM

October 17, 2017 § 15 Comments

I’m not big on the Stravver, and not least of all because its welcome page says “Connecting the World’s Athletes.” Newsflash: I ain’t no athlete. I’m a creaky old profamateur masters bicycle delusioner.

Occasionally, however, I will be forced to participate in a KOM conversation, where someone who doesn’t have any KOMs is talking about KOMs, kind of like me talking about a full head of hair.

“I don’t have hardly any KOMs,” I will meekly say.

The person will look sadly at me. “That’s just because you don’t go after them,” he will answer, trying to make me feel better.

“No, it’s because I suck.”

“Aw, come on,” the person will whine, sensing a dose of reality in the offing. “You could get tons if you tried.”

“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve tried. Here in the South Bay there are no KOMs available to me. Lane, Spencer, Chris Tregillis … the KOMs are all theirs.”

However, I do have three KOMs on the Stravver. Two of them suck and you could take them with little effort. One of them is for the Wednesday Bro Ride, a loop that has a bunch of lights and stuff, and only twenty-five people have ever done it. The course record is 1:45 and some seconds. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could snap up this KOM without hardly breaking a sweat.

The other one is the “neutral” on Western, the part of the Donut Ride that goes through San Pedro. It’s a more legit than the “brochelada” segment; the KOM is nine minutes flat and it has been stravvered by about 1,800 people. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could take this one too–it’s got the word “neutral” in it, after all–but your legs are going to have to sting a little bit. So go ahead and grab it. Be my guest.

Then I’ve got one last KOM, and I think I’ll be hanging onto it for a little while longer. It’s on Vista del Mar, 2.1 miles, the segment rolling out on NPR. I share it with Eric Anderson, and the segment has been recorded on the Stravver 4,107 times. We set this in a seven-man rotation last January including Dave Ellis, Ramon Ramos, Peyton Cooke, Jon Paris, and Kristie Fox doing an alt-NPR ride called “The 6:50.” As is often the case, we had a tailwind. And we went pretty hard. Unlike my other KOMs on the Stravver, this leaderboard is littered with hitters. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you might not be able to take this one, but if you do, you’re going to need some help, and you’re going to have to like the taste of your own puke.

But none of those KOMs that I got on the Stravver compared to the one I got on Saturday, which was snatched away the moment that the other riders uploaded their data. This was on the Donut of All Donuts, which will be the subject of a future blog, and which occurred this past Saturday.

Every year when we have the South Bay Cycling Awards, which is on a Saturday, we also have the biggest Donut of the year. Last year some of the monsters from North County showed up–Josh Stockinger, Phil Tinstman, as well as a big contingent of West Side killers. I was dropped into the meat grinder and spit out pretty quickly.

This year Ryan Dahl, another North County tough guy, made the trek, and the full Santa Monica BMW/Helen’s squad showed up, led by Tony Manzella and “reinforced” by Alex Barnes, Matt Wikstrom, and the rest of their team. Diego Binatena, who holds the KOM on the Switchbacks was there, evergreen Rudy Napolitano, along with Derek Brauch and a bunch of other bad boys. For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, I didn’t even ride to the Domes on the first climb, quitting at the college after trying to follow a pace to the base of the Switchbacks that left me in tatters.

So you can imagine how my heart went pitter-patter the moment I uploaded my ride on the Stravver and saw a little crown for the 6:36 segment through San Pedro. Whaaaaat? A KOM on the hardest day of the year on one of the hardest Donuts ever stacked with the RuggedMaxx II wrecking crew? “It must be a mistake,” I thought, because although I remembered going balls out up Western, trading the front a couple of times with David Wells and everyone else just sitting on, I couldn’t have imagined it was a KOM effort. I’d been off the bike for two weeks, I have tendinitis, and it’s friggin’ October, fer fugg’s sake.

Well … as soon as the uploads started, it was gone as quickly as it had come. David Ellis sneaked by me a second or two, and a handful of other sitters equaled my faux KOM due to the way the Stravver works, which I don’t understand, but it has something to do with how if you start at the back and use the draft of the group to move up you somehow are going faster than the people who stay in the same place. Kind of makes sense but it really doesn’t, like why rednecks don’t want free healthcare. The Stravver is obviously flawed to begin with, putting me at the top of any leaderboard for any reason.

Getting that one faux KOM made my weekend, even though it’s all gone now. I got to brag about it all day and night at the Wankys, refusing to check my phone so I could honestly say “I have the KOM going through Pedro.” And I did. And at 53-almost-54 years of age, it may have been brief but I’ll take it.

diego_binatena

Diego Binatena solo on the Donut. Photo by JP Baby Seal.

END

———————–

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My in Depends Day

July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments

The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.

It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.

If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.

Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.

Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.

EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.

Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.

Well, fuck those people.

By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.

butt_balm

Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.

The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.

It kind of looked like this.

END

————————

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My in Depends Day

July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments

The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.

It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.

If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.

Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.

Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.

EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.

Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.

Well, fuck those people.

By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.

butt_balm

Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.

The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.

It kind of looked like this.

END

————————

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Chastened and sad face with Hungarian sausage

February 14, 2016 § 16 Comments

Team Lizard Collectors rolled up to the start of the UCLA Road Race in our pimping Bonk Breaker Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van and Hotel and Restaurant. G3 and I had argued the entire 1.5 hour drive to the McDonald’s toilet about race strategy.

“The Cat 3 race is harder than the Leaky Prostate 45-plus Profamateur race,” he said.

“You are insane,” I diplomatically replied. “Our field is stacked with THOG, the desert rat brothers, Roadchamp, Capture the Flagg, Strava Jr., and a host of other mutants. They will kill it from the gun and we’ll all be dropped. We’ll never make it over the first climb.”

“Yes, we will,” said G3. “We’ll do them just like in the Cat 3’s.”

“Oh, brother,” I said. “How is that?”

“We’ll roll up to the front and ride tempo.”

“Great. Until the desert rats and Roadchamp and Strava Jr. hit the gas and drop you like Chinese egg soup.”

“Nope. I’ll chat them up and make small talk, ask about the kids and stuff. By the time they get through telling me about their new chain lube and Strava Jr.’s 1-oz. derailleur we’ll be through most of the climb and you won’t get shelled.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Works every time in the Cat 3’s.”

“This ain’t the Cat 3’s.”

The race started, G3 rolled to the front, and holding a steady tempo began chatting with the rat brothers about the carpet cleaning business, the pool cleaning business, and whether they thought it would rain in the desert anytime soon.

Even at tempo half the field was shelled, and when we made the first turn by the blowing trash and the flimsy gates that only barely restrained a rabid Rottweiler and a foaming pit bull who thought we had come to raid the meth lab, the hitters realized they’d been tricked and three of them scampered away.

“You did it!” I exulted to G3. Making it over the first climb was the hardest part of the race; even though we had four laps the remaining times around would be easy in comparison.

Since we were there to sacrifice all for our team leader G$ (easily confused with G3, at least on paper), and since we still had seven riders in the lead group, we all slunk to the back to let G$ do the hard work of reeling in the break, which he did. Once he made the catch, G3 yelled, “Come on guys, let’s get to the front and bring back the break!”

“They’re already back,” we said from the back.

“Good job!”

Now that the hard part was over, all we had to do was continue lurking and shirking while the peloton dragged us to the finish, where we would gloriously win the first seven places, and maybe G$ would get eighth.

However, as we started the climb for the second time, the group seemed to shrink and Team Lizard Collectors suffered a major reduction of its core members, including Dr. Whaaat?, who was experimenting on a hot and hilly road race with a new homemade energy drink made of pickle juice and salt. Just as we approached the rabid dog gate, one of the pre-race favorites, Strava Jr., rode straight into the back of G$’s rear wheel and fell off his bicycle.

The leaders, realizing that one of their chief competitors was down, stomped on the pedals, shredding the group. Strava Jr. lay writhing in not really pain, and after determining that his handlebars were twisted 5-degrees he declared his day over and went home to collect some more KOM’s. In the meantime, our valiant team leader G$ had pulled over to check the wheel that Strava Jr. had smashed into. As the sole remaining member of Team Lizard Collectors near the leaders, I considered my options:

  1. Stop and help my team leader with his repair, give him a wheel if necessary, help him remount, get him speedily on his way, and tow my heart out so he could rejoin the leaders and win the race.
  2. Pretend I didn’t see him, pedal blindly by, and try to catch back onto the group I had no hope of staying with so I could possibly get 14th.

It’s not often that life presents such easy choices, so I left him at the side of the road and tried to rejoin the leaders.

This failed.

However, G$ fixed his bike, remounted, and with no assistance powered across a hilly windswept stairstep to close a 30-second gap and rejoin the front group. I was soon caught by a rather hopeless and dispirited group of people who once resembled cyclists but now looked a lot like homeless desert people on bikes. They dropped me after a few miles.

One by one, everyone remaining in the race passed me except for one fellow who was afterwards declared retroactively dead. I sensed that he was a real threat to the leaders and even though we were 40 minutes back I knew it would take a lot of skill to keep him from going across to G$, who eventually attacked the lead group and won the race.

Fortunately, Mr. Corpse was unable to execute his plan and I kept him blocked safely in 39th place, just out of reach of G$, who was mostly in another county. It was a super valiant team effort and I was humbly honored to play such an important role in G$’s win.

Thanks to my hard work, I demanded that G$ buy the whole team lunch with his $80 in winnings. He agreed and we went to the Hungarian Sausage and Meat Company, located back in Pearblossom between the bail bondsman, the liquor shop, and the Baptist church. Since we had Attila the Hungarian with us, we figured he would appreciate some of his native food.

Inside the shop, he went to the counter. “Anyone here speak Hungarian?” he asked.

The young lady shook her head. “No. What makes you think they would?”

“Well,” said Attila, “the sign says Hungarian Sausage, so I thought maybe someone here was Hungarian.”

hungarian_sausage

The woman made a complicated look with her face, straining muscles that seemed attached to her brain, but that hadn’t been exercised much in the last few years. “No,” she said. “We only speak American here.”

Attila looked at the menu. “I’ll have the Hungarian sausage sandwich,” he said.

The woman scowled. “That takes twenty-five minutes. You’ll have to wait twenty-five minutes. It’s a twenty-five minute wait.”

“Then I’ll have something quicker. What do you recommend?”

“The summer smoked Polish blood sausage with spicy entrails.”

“I’ll have that, then,” said Attila. We all ordered the same thing.

Twenty-five minutes later our food came. I don’t know if it was good or we were ravenous, but it was gone in seconds. At lunch we were joined by Derek the Destroyer, who had gotten second place in the much easier 35+ race against a very weak field.

“Second is okay,” I said. “But 38th in the 45+ race was a lot harder.”

“Really?” he said. “Because we had Tony Manzella, Kirk Bausch, Gary Douville, and a few other guys who go pretty good.”

“Pffft,” I said. “They would have gotten 39-41 in our race.”

“But I think we almost lapped you,” he said.

“That’s because I was blocking. We had a dead guy who was trying to bridge and if he’d gotten across G$ wouldn’t have won.”

Derek munched on his sandwich thoughtfully. “I see,” he said.

On the way back we dissected the race. “Good job, G$,” I said. “I think I could have won but I had the wrong gearing.”

“I could have won, too,” said Attila, “if the race had stopped after the first lap.”

“I could definitely have won,” said G3, “if I hadn’t ridden tempo for Wanky in the beginning. And Dr. Whaaat? was on the podium for sure if it hadn’t been for the pickle juice and salt.”

“I was really surprised that I won,” said G$, who has only won the race five times previously. “I guess I just got lucky.”

No one said anything.

END

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