Not My Favorite Bike Tour Ever

Having rolled in every one of the L.A. Bike Tours since they began back in 1995, I have firsthand knowledge of some being better organized than others. Today’s stands as one of the worst. Certainly its popularity is not helping. I’d bet there were at least 18,000 cyclists our there with me in the dawn’s early chill for the 21-mile ride.

But even with the exploding participation there were decisions made (or not made) to the course route that can only be described as assinine and resulted in massive gridlock, cramped and dangerous cycling conditions, and an overall unpleasant experience.

In any group ride, there’s what I call the Yahoo Factor. A “yahoo” is pretty much best described as a careless tard having little business being on a bike, nevermind being on a bike among other cyclists. I’ve encountered oodles of yahoos in my cyclings, but my favorite of all time I met on my last time down south of the border for the Rosarito/Ensenada 50-mile ride in 2001. The ride heads out of Rosarito south along a rolling coastal highway for a dozen or so miles before taking a sharp right inland and climbing into the hills that lead you to the teeth of El Tigre, a two-mile 7%-grade climb.

Anyway, blessed with powerful legs and quads that are up for a good lactic burn now and again, I’ve always had a proclivity for hammering my way up inclines at a good pace… or at least until my other bodyparts balk at the physics and energy required to get my ass uphill. So after putting my back to the sea and powering into the climb I was winding and wending my way through and around dismounted riders either in no mood or shape to follow my lead — and there he was: my favorite yahoo. At first he was a good six feet off to my right struggling to keep the pedals of his ride cranking as I came up along side him. Then for no other reason other than destiny, he decided that right then as I got parallel with him it was the perfect time to execute a textbook version of Yahoo Move No. 1: a full upper body twist so that he was now looking over his left shoulder behind him to see how far behind his buddy hauling the cooler of Pacifico was. Of course, this radical compromise in body geometry was too much for his alocohol-addled peabrain to consider and so he veered perpindicular to me before somehow managing to draw parallel right beside me, which tthen provided the perfect opportunity to lock his handlebars up in mine and down we both went in a clattering heap.

I was up in a second and ready to stow my rage and just make sure he and my bike were OK and get on with it. But he slowly rose to unsteady feet and said “Fuuuuuuck, dude!” in such a way and tone that could only have meant he considered the crash to somehow be my fault.

I managed a dumbfounded “Hunh?” while he attempted unsuccesfully to unhook his bike from mine in disgust. He shot me a sideways glare and I saw red.

“Here,” I said, “allow me.” Upon which I yanked his bike from out of his hands, shook it until it had separated from mine and then swung it fully around in a hammer-toss motion letting it go so that it sailed nicley across the asphalt, over the road’s edge out and down the canyon out of view.

Now it was his turn to look and act dumbfounded until he finally realized that he should be pissed that I just threw his bike away and he turned back around to find me armed and brandishing my tire pump in as threatening a way as I could given that it was just a tire pump.

Before he could take a step toward me a squawk from a emergency medical vehicle that had come up behind us sounded and a voice from its loudspeaker asked if we were OK. I gave myself a quick once-over and aside from a scrape on my knee I was fine. Distracted, the yahoo shruggged and pointed over in the direction in which his bike had recently traveled through the air and headed in that direction, which was my queue to mount up and move on.

Sorry for the digression but that my friends, is a yahoo. And my point was that the annual L.A. Bike Tour is just loaded with ’em. Young and old. Big and small. The Yahoo Factor is high. It’s just a fact that when you put thousands of cyclists together, a good percentage of them are going to suck. And people end up getting hurt because of them.

Part of the problem is that we wound up way near the end of the pack this morning. I was spoiled last year. As a registered “duathelete” participating in the bike ride and the marathon, that status got me a special colored wristband that allowed me access into the coveted VIP section at the front of the herd. Thus when the race kicked off I was immediately way out in front of the goofballs and bozos. This year, not so much. With thousands of riders in front of me I encountered the first total gridlock turning from Exposition onto Arlington. Once we got rolling again instead of the full use of both sides of Leimert Boulevard we were coralled into the westbound lanes which bogged riders down again. Then onto Crenshaw I discovered the ultimate insult: the southbound lanes were cordoned off, cramming riders together into the northbound lanes. The whole point of the bike tour is that the route’s streets are closed to cars and open to bikes. Someone must not have gotten that memo.

Then, just when I thought it was safe to build up some speed, we were totally gridlocked again getting from Martin Luther King Boulevard up a quiet little residential street to Rodeo.

Things finally opened up on Venice Boulevard, but again, cyclists were restricted to the eastbound lanes only… except for me and a handful of others who opted to make up some time in the wide-open westbound lanes.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and easy going, but then a reconfigured finish line area was the piece de resistance. Jamming everyone through a section of the USC campus, it ended up taking 20 minutes of shuffling along from the dismount point until we were finally handed our medals. End result: what should have been a 75-minute ride or better ended up being almost two frustrating hours.
So what have I learned? Either get there early enough to get a place up front, or return to being a “duathelete,” which I plan on doing next year anyway.