THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MOVIE OF MY TEENAGE YEARS WAS BIG WEDNESDAY. Released in '78, the same summer I could finally drive myself to San Clemente to surf... cool was never cooler than played by Jan Michael Vincent.
So, when I learned JMV had passed away I dove into the interwebs to see what'd be said. Lots of movies and parts to his credit, but not a whisper about Matt Johnson, Big Wednesday's surf legend.
And it got me wonderin'... what will we be known for?
All the Strava cups and real medals earned are nice, but in the end it's the impact we make on each other riding through life that matters.
Ride on Matt, Ride on JMV, Ride on.
You gave me courage and desire to ride big waves... and later to ride big mountains on wheels.
WE DON'T HAVE CUSTOMERS.
Yes, we do.
No, we don't. We have a posse.
We aren't into one-time transactions.
We are planning to ride together forever.
When things go sideways and when things are great, the posse lets us know.
We got each other's backs.
Do you want to be a customer, or do you want to be part of a posse?
THE SKILLS NEEDED TO GO FAST ON A BIKE MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK THEY ARE.
The number one skill is time management. Putting in the time, means finding the time. If you need to get up early, do it. If you need to ride the trainer at night, do it.
Number 2 is commitment. Commit to riding no matter what. It's cold, go ride. It's dark, go ride. Nobody else is going, go ride.
Number 3 is friendship. Find your posse. Inspire each other. It's a heck of a lot easier to get out there if you know the rest of the kids are gonna meet ya at the corner.
Number 4 is keep it fun. No matter what. Ride a wheelie. Stop for a Coke.
IF YOU'RE TRAVELING TO A RACE THERE ARE A FEW THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SPIKE YOUR CONFIDENCE. My favorite, was actually shocking today. In fact, my heart skipped a beat. Such was my concern.
Exiting the shower I turned to face a full body mirror... only it wasn't my body.
I know I've dropped about 8 lbs since last year, but the stick creature staring back at me looked more like a resident of Pandora.
So yeah... stay at a foofoo hotel with skinny mirrors to get your climbing on!
THERE SHE WAS, ALL OF 4 1/2 FEET TALL, MOM BACKING HER UP. Would you like some Girl Scout cookies?
I'd been prepping for this day. After many near misses at the grocery store, here I was face to face with the most powerful sales force in America.
Who would win?
I almost choked trying to spit our my prepared speech.
Oh darling, I'm allergic to cookies.
The beaming smile flattened. Mom frowned, she knew. I could hear her inner thoughts: scumbag!
But, it's true... I am allergic to cookies.
Every time I eat one, I get fat.
And the Thin Mints... forget eating one, I eat 'em by the sleeve.
And I'm racing this weekend.
And the season is on.
And I worked so hard to shed 8 lbs this winter.
THERE'S JUST A HINT OF SUMMER IN THE AIR. I know it's early, but it's there.
How long until the summer scorchers have us longing for winter?
WHAT YA READ IS NOT A TEST...
I was geeked up, pumped up, ready to rip.
Bikes loaded, boys loaded, on a trip.
Truck bouncin', phone bouncin', hit the road.
Turn around?, say what?!
We ridin', not callin'.
NOTHING SAYS LOVE LIKE A VALENTINE'S DONUT... and the fact that she didn't get one for me says even more. It says she gets me.
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REMEMBER WAY BACK TO YESTERDAY WHEN I BRAGGED ABOUT HOW GRITTY WE (YOU AND ME) ARE? Well, check out my morning.
1. Still super exhausted from Saturday's Rock Cobbler.
2. Leave house 4 minutes late.
3. Get 5 minutes down the road and cleats will not engage... Tell me why??????... oh, yeah, Thursday I crammed them full of muddy clay and it hardened in there.
4. Back home for 20 minutes of surgery.
5. Leave again... now 30 minutes late.
6. Hustle, and start making all the short cut calculations... cut through golf course, skip Melinda, make light at Marguerite...
7. As I'm rolling past Rock N Road I see a group turn the corner. It's just the right size I can't tell if it's the A group or the B... but, I miss the light and have to wait.
8. Catch Dan on bike trail. A or B, I gasp. A. Ugh (A's are chasing B's... and I'm escrewed).
You may be wondering why didn't I stay in bed to begin with... it was 39 and dark and I was tired?
Because of that previous post.
Why didn't I go back to bed when I came home vs shoe surgery?
Because of that darn post.
Why didn't I just do my own ride vs chasing all morning?
Because of that post.
Why do we do what we do?
Because we've got grit!
... and hope. I was hoping I'd make up the 4 minutes, I was hoping the cleat fix would be quick, I was hoping I'd make all the lights, I was hoping I'd catch... and eventually I did catch Dan and then my neighbor Mike who'd flatted... and so, Mike and I and Isaac finished it up strong, and then Mike and I rolled home and caught up on life.
... another great ride!
(yes, this is worth your time)
I KEEP HEARING ABOUT GRIT, that it's grit that makes the difference between success and failure.
Looking at tomorrow's once again dark and cold start, I know I'll be among the few with the grit to do it.
Habit. For sure, that's a big part.
Results. I prefer the result of riding vs not riding.
The sunrise... is there anything better?
10 MINUTES BEFORE THE START OF THE ROCK COBBLER IT STARTED TO SPRINKLE. In unison, the temperature began dropping. I ripped off my jersey threw on a base layer.
The sprinkle turned to drizzle. Back to the van. Off with the jersey and base layer, on with the vest.
I rode 100 yards to the Start area.
Now it was raining. Dark, full clouds lie ahead. I'm freezing.
Back to the van, again. Off with the vest, off with the jersey, on with the base layer and jersey and vest.
It's all of got...
... and I can hear the singer giving it all she's got...
... and the hommmmmmme, of theeeeeeee, BRAAAAAAAAVE!
A yank the van door shut, hide the key, jump on HVY MTL, and catch the group as it leaves Lengthwise Brewery.
It's 42 degrees, raining, I'm basically wearing underwear, the group is barely moving during our 14 mile neutral roll out. I start to shiver. The bars shimmer.
Is this brave or stupid? It's the Rock Cobbler 6.0... and it's exactly what we all signed up for: an adventure, a test, a tour... through beautiful open country, accessible only because Sam Ames makes it happen.
We finally survived the neutral, got up to speed, and hit the first long climb. The day before, when I test rode it, it was dry and hard and slippery. I thought a light rain would help. Ha!... it was slop. While I cleaned it many were already walking.
... and I was warm, finally!
I was about 30 guys back. Little groups of 3-5 guys slicing fast gravel and single track for the next hour. We could all see each other, and where to go.
(NOTE: when gravel racing, part of being prepared... of being "pro"... is downloading the map onto your Garmin. I did not do this. I will never skip this step again.)
About this point we took a narrow, shallow tunnel under a highway. Into the daylight, the guy ahead of me turned left. Just like the guy ahead of him, and the guy head of him... I have a maxim: the closer we get to the finish line, the dumber we get... and the left turn was a perfect example.
We raced on... up a hike-a-bike so steep I locked my brakes then pulled myself up a few steps. It was brutal. My calves burned. Lots of guys were collapsed at the top, a number of others scraping mud off their bikes so their wheels would spin.. the aid station guys didn't seem surprised to see us. They should have been. I refilled a bottle and got going.
There probably isn't a funner section of racing anywhere than down the slot canyon with huge banked turns that led us to the pavement.
We got a train of 4 guys, started swooping more guys, and barreling back towards Bakersfield. Full gas!... when some hill billy in a pick up rips past us, slams on his brakes, jumps out and starts yelling. I'm thinking, great a kook that wants off the road... but he's yelling, you're going the wrong way, turn around. We didn't hear that though and kept riding. He speeds past us and does it again. We can't believe it. Crest fallen, we turn the train around. We chug, neither speeding up nor slowing down.
We yell at the other groups still heading the wrong way... eventually we get back on course and just deal with it. We're about a half hour behind schedule.
It's a cow trail, above the mighty Kern river... a known killer in the spring and summer, a timid friend today. It's green and lush and slippery. In some places the trail is a foot wide, and 15' straight down into the drink.
I love it. This is my kind of riding. I forget about the extra miles and get back to racing. My buddies from home, Tim and Jeff, and I are up to full speed. The mud is real: thick and slow; then, sandy and gritty; fast and splashy. So fun!
The next aid station we are begging for lube. None. But, plenty of food. Tim whips out a teency, tiny lube sampler and saves us. Many people at this point bail out. Their bikes a barely working, the legs are gone.
We get on with it, and I'm so glad. Sure, we had a hideous 20 minute brutal climb. Many pitches to steep to ride. Mud sticky enough to pull your shoes off. But sooooo worth it.
Beautiful green pastures. Cows. Streams. Earth at it's best!
And it's getting warmer and dryer. It hasn't rained for 2 hours. This is the desert, and it's going to get faster every single minute.
I summit by myself. Blow through the aid station the bottom of a Dolomiti-like road descent, start up the next climb where I see a group of 10 about 2 minutes up the road.
It's Diesel time!
15 minutes later, after surfing through their shelled riders I catch.
There's still a lot of road and gravel and single track and whoops to go, but I'm able to recover a bit and eat. My buddy Q is here. It's a good group riding at a fast clip.
I know what's ahead. They don't. I've done it. They haven't. They're going to. I'm not.
It's the terrible hike-a-bike us rookies already did.
They head for it, I head for the finish. It's still 20 miles away, and the 84 mile ride I signed up for is going to wind up being 96.
Would I do the Rock Cobbler again? For sure... with the map on my Garmin.
A few tips: download the course so you have it - can't say this enough; bring extra lube; spray non-stick spray on your pedals, shoes and parts of your frame the collect mud... I'm sure next year will be totally different and I'll have all new mistakes to learn from.
I'VE BEEN WANTING TO DO THE ROCK COBBLER FOR YEARS... Sam is known turning the fun up to 11.
Wade suggested I reset my expectations to entertainment... be prepared to be bombed by beach balls.
Dave said to spray my shoes and pedals and down tube with non-stick spray... that mud and those hikes are real.
Tim and Chris said they're just here for the miles... its Tim's 5th and Chris' 1st.
I checked out the first miles today... straight up!
What have I gotten myself into?
THERE I WAS, SHAKING DOWN HVY MTL BEFORE SATURDAYS ROCK COBBLER. It had all gone so well.
Chain was quiet.
Paint was sparkly.
Had to go all terrain to do it right. Hit some pavement, hit some gravel, hit some chunky asphalt, hit some dirt.
But, the dirt was sticky. Not too sticky, just sticky enough to give my treads a light glaze of brown.
As I climbed along the final dirt pitch, I could see in my mind the other side. It was steep, the rain for sure would have dug some deep grooves. I'd have to bunny hop a bit. The big question was the 50' of flat from the bottom of the hill to the pavement.
How bad could it be?
The grooves turned out to be more trench-like. I worked my way jumping and sliding quickly. I could see the flat section. Smooth as can be.
I pinned it... full speed... I got it, I got it, I... the pinning turned to spinning... harder, faster became deeper... and stuck.
New shoes ankle deep in California clay... almost lost 'em.
Turns out this was a good thing... I double checked the weather for Saturday: rain from mid-night so sunrise. I called Super Dave, who's raced it many times...
Bro, will road shoes work at The Cobbler.
No, way... BWR yes... but, Cobbler has a solid hike-a-bike.
He gave me three more solid tips to make it through this crazy course Sam has cooked up.
... I can smell the mud from here... mmmmmmmmmm
THIS MUST BE WHAT MONTY HALL FELT LIKE... her shock, way back on Christmas Day; then her joy today, when it was finally ready for a ride.
It'd been years since her last new road bike... which was preceded by the arrival of Trevor, making us a party of 3.
Oh, there had been plenty of mountain bikes and motorcycles and surfboards during that time... as well as our party growing to 5 with Shane and Shelby.
But, no road bikes.
It was probably my doing... we lived in a mountain bike mecca and that's all I rode for years.
Then, I got into the road scene via Trevor's passion for it.
He got out of it, I stayed fully immersed... loving it.
She didn't seem to care.
Did she mind being a road widow?
Didn't seem like it... but, I'm a dude... and dudes can be sooooo clueless.
The last month has been like watering a dry plant.
I may not be the be the quickest of riders,
but, I got this one right.
IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE CHAOS LIFE SERVES UP, there waits our humble bike.
Through launching a career or business, starting a family or raising teenagers, caring for each other or an elderly parent, in good times and bad times... it waits.
Sometimes, too long.
Tires get splashy, or flat.
Chain gets stiff, or rusty.
The helmet and shoes dusty, or lost.
The gear buried, or given away.
But that bike, it waits.
Like an old dog, we can't give it away. Not while it longingly looks up and hoping today's the day we get back outside... escape the garage... and put a great big giant smile on my master's face.
In the midst of it all, when it's all a little too much...
... go ride your bike.
I DON'T ALWAYS BONK, BUT WHEN I DO... sometimes it's a work.
I just get jamming, and in the zone, and "lunch time" passes by... and then it's mid-afternoon or later... and I'm hungry like a wolf!
More of the time I've got a bar or two stashed in my desk or glove compartment.
Just another reason to be grateful to be a bike rider.
Am I weird?
Will it be an adventure?
Will we be tested?
Will we meet some cool people?
Will it require our best?
Will we make a difference in someone's life?
Will we learn a ton?
Will it be fun?
Will we go fast?
Will it be dangerous?
Will we need new skills?
Will it be unpredictable?
Will it change us?
THEY SAY EVERY RIDER SHOULD HAVE ALL THE BIKES HE OR SHE NEEDS, plus one more. Or something like that.
But, what if we had N - 1.
What if there was always a need for one more bike?
Oh... right... that's exactly how it is.
Right now my "- 1" is a full suspension XC racer. I'm feeling a need to get back to the dirt, back to my roots.
How 'bout you?
COVER YOUR EYES KIDS... sometimes mommy and daddy aren't getting along, and then someone eventually tosses an olive branch, and soon enough sparks are flying like never before... but, that's not how it works in a pace line.
Look, I know you've been skipping pulls. Everybody in the pace line does, and nobody is happy about it.
Don't make it worse!
Don't wander up to the front and think, Well I feel pretty good now that I've rested I better make up for it by doing a monster pull. Doing a big, long, fast pull will not ingratiate yourself. It's not make up sex... it's more like, well... I don't know exactly... but, I do know you're going to tick everybody off with these shenanigans.
Roll through like the gentlemen or lady you think you are... take a normal pull... slot back in... and do it again and again and again...
Eventually, we'll forget and forgive your previous misdeeds. That's how to kiss and make up in a pace line.
PS... no, this isn't about you... 'cause I know you, you think it's you, but it's not you... it's someone else : )