Every Thursday we have a little ride called the Flog Ride, or Love & Thursday, or the Joe’s Sleeping in Again Ride. You can’t always count on who’s going to show up, but you can count on this:
- NJ Pedal Beater will be there.
- You will get dropped.
NJ Pedal Beater is English, but he’s lived in the U.S long enough so that we can sort of understand him. Not that we get to chat with him much, because he rides on the front as hard as he can until he either drops everyone or until he blows, or both. NJ Pedal Beater always smiles and is hail-fellow-well-met, but he doesn’t ride 25 miles one-way on Thursdays to make the Flog Ride’s 6:35 AM liftoff in order to make small talk.
He does it because the Flog Ride provides the only non-racing weekday opportunity unencumbered by stop lights or shrieking ride bosses demanding that you pull through, or stop for traffic, or take reasonable steps to prevent killing yourself and others. No, the Flog Ride is a kind of delectably rare truffle that simply offers up a relentless, hilly beating for 60 minutes before work.
Unlike the Flog Ride’s Thursday competition, the New Pier Ride, you can’t sit in. Essentially you get up early, drink your coffee, roll to the start, say hello, and spend the rest of the morning by yourself. It is a great ride for introverts. NJ Pedal Beater is a very social introvert in that he always says “Hello” before zooming away. If you’re unlucky enough to be strong enough to hold his wheel, you had better stay alert because NJ Pedal Beater has a bad case of the droops, where his head hangs down and he fearlessly plows over metal grates, rocks, tree limbs, and anything else in his way.
As much as you’d love to advise him on proper etiquette (avoiding large chasms, pointing shit out, not descending the wet 180-degree peacock-filled turns full gas, not crossing the DYL, not making the 90-degree right hook onto PV Drive North full tilt) you never actually can because he’s always in front of you and you’re gassed or he’s dangling off the front and you’re gassed or he’s attacking and you’re gassed or he’s a tiny little speck in a galaxy far, far, away.
NJ Pedal Beater is the toughest rider in the wankoton, hands down. He recently awoke at 2:35 AM, hopped on his bike, and did a 300-mile round trip ride, stopping once and averaging 18.6 mph. He has the recovery of a small child, and no matter how cracked and broken he appears to be, as soon as he gulps twice he’s back pounding at the front.
This morning was no different. NJ Pedal Beater zoomed off, followed by the Wily Greek. This was our cue for an easier flogging on the Flog Ride, and it was easier–for a moment or two. That’s when a new face rolled to front and began administering a very painful Brazilian wax. Soon enough we were in the gutter, breathless, cursing, and livid at being made to grovel on the wheel of a youngish wanker with more leg hair than a silverback, midget socks, and a complete lack of concern for our misery.
In addition, as if any were needed, he pointed out all obstacles well in advance, took safe and clean lines, kept his head up, and held a steady, surge-free, nut-crunching pace.
I flatted, thank dog, and what was left of the chasers raced away.
Many minutes later I clawed to the finish atop La Cuesta. NJ Pedal Beater and the others were there. I went up to the new kid. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Alx Bns,” he said.
“Bns? That’s a weird name.”
“No, it’s ‘Bns,'” he said, which sounded suspiciously like what he’d said a second ago.
“Been riding long?” I asked.
The response shocked me. I can’t even approximate it, but it sounded like this: “Istaatdsmtimbkprpsayrrrtoagonnmrdnwthbgrnge.”
“Dude,” I said, fearing the worst, “don’t be so stingy with the vowels. They’re free here in America.”
He muttered some more singsong consonants and then I looked over at NJ Pedal Beater, who had clearly understood everything he’d said. A light went on: Bns was another Englishman. Or maybe just another mad dog. I hesitated before calling him a wanker, knowing that among those of the green citrus persuasion it’s a mild insult, kind of like calling someone “anus face.”
“Look here, wanker,” I said. “You’re beastly strong, bloody tough, tea and crumpets and all that rot. But we already have one crazy strong Englishman who kicks us in the groin every Thursday, and we don’t need another.”
Bns warbled some more consonants and smiled pleasantly.
“Fuggit,” I said. “Wanna go grab coffee?”
He said something unintelligible and smiled in a friendly way that indicated he did not understand the depth of our anger and lifelong enmity at having been smushed to a pulp by a hairy-legged newbie who couldn’t even talk English goodly. But that’s okay. He’ll learn.
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