Once a year, Wolfpack Hustle (perhaps the oldest of the fast-paced Midnight Ridazz weekly night rides) puts on a century through the heart of greater urban Los Angeles. Monday night celebrated their fourth year. I think my Casseroll weighs twice what the majority of bikes do on this ride, but that didn’t stop me from showing up at 9:30PM to pick up a doughnut and route sheet. I’d been up since 5:00AM, and had 40 miles of commuting (during which I broke my rear derailleur cable…) plus a few miles to get to the start in Silverlake in my legs…
There were around 50 – 60 people at the start, quite an impressive group. The crowd was diverse: One guy showed up with a bike that had a massive bullhorn mounted on the rear rack, and he was blasting old time music out of it into the night…he was surprisingly fast, keeping up with the main group for the first few miles until he had a spoke-breaking crash. Another rider showed up on a pursuit bike with a disc wheel in back, a carbon rimmed tubular in front, aero bars and (supposedly) 55×12 gearing! We had a half dozen other people come in “party ride” mode, pretty much all of them dropped off before we even reached the San Fernando valley.
It was a bit claustorphobic riding so close together among a large group of cyclists of varying experience – and I was relieved when the “A” group broke away (and surprised to find myself as part of it) on the first sustained climb of the evening up La Crescenta. I was slowly getting dropped until we crested the hill. Another couple riders tangled up due to a miscommunication at a stop-light, and on the extended mild descent down Foothill Blvd I found myself back up in front.
We pulled into our first stop at Balboa/Rinaldi, waiting while two or three more waves of riders pulled in. I drank a liter of chocolate milk in the interim. Once everyone had refueled/rested a bit, we headed out again – careening down De Soto and zipping around the Warner Center. Coming down Corbin, a smaller residential street on our way down to Ventura Blvd, we all came to a shouting skidding stop at a red light right in front of a cop car – we all gawked at the car for a few moments, until the officer broke the silence by chuckling over the intercom. He sent us on through the intersection admonishing us to “move those legs!”
With a number of Cat-1, 2, and 3 racers up front, the pace surged when we hit Ventura Blvd, with a series of brief attacks sending the more human among us scrambling to latch on to a wheel. We were through Encino in no time at all, stopping again at the base of Sepulveda. Cranberry juice, a couple dried bananas, and I was feeling OK. I was underdressed but not too cold, though I was eager to get rolling again after we waited for a couple more groups to catch up. John commented on my situation with his usual understatement: “Jesus man – Aren’t you fucking freezing? I’m getting cold just looking at you! Don’t you have any leg warmers or something in all those bags hung all over your bike? Hell, just put the bags on!” Huffing and puffing up Sepulveda I was hot before long, despite the temps in the upper 40s. On the climb I couldn’t hang on to the lead group, and spent the next 20 miles trying to catch up. I would pass or be passed by a handful of other riders who were getting dropped or getting a second wind, and this was really the only part of the ride that I did solo.
At the bottom of the descent, I managed to find three other riders going my pace, all of them fast fixed gear riders and we pace-lined hard down to Westchester. The fog was so thick, my glasses became useless, and I ended up missing our turn and nearly riding into LAX. We back-tracked a bit and with my heart feeling like it would explode, we reached the “A” group at a 7-11 on Manchester, mostly looking well rested. Riders pulled in too quickly behind us, some skidding out and tumbling over on the slick concrete leading into the parking lot. Ice cream, potato chips, halva, dried fruit…my heart rate finally came back down. I chatted with a few other riders and hid from the cold inside the store until everyone was ready to roll. We had a decent sized group on Florence, but the front group split us up when we turned North again. The streets were mostly empty in the ‘hood, but occasionally we’d see a figure running down the sidewalk (one crazy individual ran out in front of one of the groups behind me).
Blow outs, broken shifter cables and other mechanicals plagued us, until the pace-line was down to just four of us – killing ourselves to bridge the increasing gap between us and the array of blinking red lights flying away into the night. We kept accelerating and trading attacks rather than pulls until we embraced our “B” group status (leaving the racing to the racers) and went back to figuring out the rest of the route.
From Monterey Park we rode West to Downtown, eventually hitting Caeser Chavez, Sunset, and back to the start at Tang’s.
Regrouping at the end, we headed off to Denny’s for a repast, but were turned away by the host when we tried to bring 10-15 bikes inside and stack them up near the waiting area. Watching John try everything from basic logic to bribery was highly amusing, but the host wouldn’t budge on his “policy” so the group went to another Denny’s a few miles away that let them all in (I opted to take the subway home instead, which had just started running at 4:30AM – I was in bed about an hour later).
My first Bicykillers was a century route, and now my first Wolfpack was a century route – wondering if I can keep up this pattern with T.R.F.K.A.S., Cyclones, or one of the other “hustles” – ?