Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Live and Train in L.A. #15

The 15th post of this type on the 15th day of the cruelest month but I’ve got my mind already clearly focused on the upcoming 4/20 holiday. What a joyous day that is, 4/20, full of peace and love and understanding and hope for a clearer, mellow-headed future for humanity! Fuck yeah!

In the meantime, with these 420wear bibshorts on, I am finding peace and understanding every afternoon on the L.A. River Bike Path. When I pass gangbangers, I say hello. When I approach small children, I slow down. When I pass the homeless dudes between Fletcher and Los Feliz, I keep my hands on the brake-lever hoods and prepare for an instant cyclocross dismount and subsequent use of my Gunnar Crosshairs as a weapon that has sharp 46-tooth chain rings on its not-soft underbelly. And I am trying to be to the cyclists of the Bike Path what Mother Theresa once was to the poor – well, maybe not that extreme: I’m trying to be a friendly cycling citizen, in any case. Not surprisingly, it’s easier to have a pleasant exchange with a gangbanger than it is with a 40-year-old roadie on a Trek Madone. The gangbanger, you see, is chilling and enjoying the views and gentle sounds of the river, the seasonal water fowl and the varied riverbed foliage and the mighty mountains looming everywhere on the horizon. The gangbanger loves this neighborhood. It’s his. The person on the Trek Madone, on the other hand, is thinking that the bike path in this neighborhood has been designed for cyclists in Livestrong jerseys to use at ‘blistering’ constant speeds of 21.5 miles per hour; in other words, the Madone owner thinks the Bike Path is an exercise machine built exclusively for his personal use. The Madone owner does not ride for love of his surroundings but instead for relentless personal advancement that can be expressed probably in numbers that he sends via email to his coach at Carmichael Training Systems. If the Madone owner encounters gangbangers or small children or old couples or fishermen or people walking their dogs, the Madone owner expresses outrage: “Don’t these people have any respect for bikes on the bikeway?”

I encountered one of these people yesterday. The scene couldn’t have been more classic: Livestrong jersey, Performance bike shorts, Lance-Armstrong shoes, iPod blasting so loud I could hear the Nine Inch Nails two bike lengths behind him when I was following him next to the freeway! The two bike lengths, of course, were necessary because I had pulled up on the guy and said, “On your wheel!” But his iPod prevented him from hearing me and if a rider can’t hear you, the wise move is to give that rider some room. His speed: 21.5 miles per hour. I don’t know why the rec roadies all ride at that speed – always in the big ring, always pedaling at 75 rpm – it’s like if they love Lance Armstrong so much, why have they never noticed that the man’s signature pedaling style is HIGH RPMs? Anyways, I tailed the Madone owner all the way to Griffith Park – for five miles or so – and at one point he realized I was behind him and he put in a monstrous acceleration and ramped the speed to 24.5 miles a hour, but after a few hundred yards of that kind of hammering, he dropped back to 21.5. When the path ended, I stopped and had some water and watched a Great Blue Heron searching for food in the river shallows. I sipped from my water bottle. I heard cars on the highway and helicopters in the air and dogs yipping in the nearby dog park, and I could smell the cottonwoods and the eucalyptus and feel the drifting, shifting-direction breeze of this great city. The time was 4:20. I was on a bicycle and I was happy. I hope the Livestrong guy was, too, but I have my doubts. He had long since hammered off in the direction of the Los Angeles Zoo.


  1. yeah, baby. the ipod thing is too much. hikers jumping out of their skin when i pass and i always say on your left but the dumb douche bags can't hear me. then they yell at me. so awesome. hurry up to stop. hurry up to stop. why, people, must you be in a hurry to stop and wear headphones that mute the beauty of nature? just don't fucking get it - me and them. oh well. nap time. good post, mags.

  2. Hey Mike,

    my name is ryan and I live in LA. read your book heft on wheels. pretty F-ing awesome. it inspired me. anyways man, i ride in LA too (way beginner though). down to ride some time. email is (by the way, if you post this, can you take down my email address? thanks.)

    The Current "Heft on Wheels"

  3. Those Madone fuckers, they should just be lynched. Can't tell you how many times I thought of this today, me and my Madone boxed in by these guys attacking the half pretzel at 60 fucking RPM. I can see getting down to that shit, we are in need of further hardening (most of us). Still, glad you said he back there; I did not spare the weenie ring today.


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