It’s hard to say if the two youths loitering on the side of Ballona Creek last night were there by coincidence or design.

It could be the pair of punks just happened to be standing around having found something interesting to watch in the waterway beside the section of the bikeway where it passes under the 405. Or it could be that they were there with a darker more predatory purpose.

I offer that second possibility because just this morning riding in to work the section of bikeway had been its usual unobstructed self. But as I biked home last night in the post-seven o’clock dusk that same dip under the freeway where a fellow cyclist was assaulted and robbed last month had strangely become littered with an odd assortment of baseball-sized river rocks.

I avoided the first couple stones, but at the darkest point where the path briefly bottoms out before inclining back up and out from under the bridge, my front wheel clipped a pretty large one after that and sent it caroming with a crack against the embankment to my left, amplified by the enclosed space. I kept my balance and hissed out a “nice” and on the way up that’s when I passed the duo just out from under the overpass. Immediately I noticed that even though they almost certainly heard the smack of the rock against the concrete and my sarcastic reaction that followed, at best they were looking at me sideways seemingly still interested in the flow of water down the channel.

In the next moment I was beyond them and didn’t give the situation a second thought until I was coming up from under the Sepulveda Boulevard overpass and my front innertube showed itself to be fatally injured  no doubt from its direct impact with the rock. With a flat front tire flopping on the rim I pulled over, put Le Noir belly up and commenced swapping in a spare. And in the course of doing so it dawned on me that those rocks may very well have been strategically placed and by those two wastrels in the hopes of potentially downing a cyclist or disabling their bike and pouncing.

My hackles stood at attention and as I reinflated the tube (by the way, it takes 200 cranks of my tire pump to get it up around 100psi) in increasing agitation and indignation I considered going back. I entertained the thought of parading back past the hoodlums, clearing the path of its would-be trap with them looking on in surprise. Of course when they’d object or otherwise attempt to intervene with my safety efforts they’d prove my theory that it was intentional and I would then drown the both of them in the creek and send their carcasses seaward, because in my mind I can be a dark sonofabitch.

In reality, my grateful wife appreciates that I’m far less psychopathically inclined and far more consequence-aware so instead of risking injury or the death penalty I reasoned myself into pedaling onward inland and let the 20-plus mph winds my adrenaline was generating soothe the hair on the back of my neck back down.

It took a few miles for them to go fully flat.

PS. If you’re wondering why I don’t have a timelapse video of the event, it’s because I picked the wrong commute to experiment with a rear-facing POV by mounting my cam on my backpack. Unknown to me its upward angle only allowed it to capture nothing-in-particular images like this one under the 405 overpass right around the moment of impact with the rock: