Death, Rapha, and Bike Fit

EDIT: didn’t read dq thread facepalm sorry

The Speedbloggen post that everyone’s talking about… (I know, tl;dr, but curious as to thoughts if you did)

[quote]There was a Rapha ride last weekend that took riders down Las Flores Canyon. My father lived up that canyon in the early 80′s and I know it like the back of my hand. I’ve been riding it since 1983…. and I just rode it last week. I always give every descent my full attention and I treat every descent the same way a surfer treats a big wave… with the respect and attention it deserves. The rider that died simply overcooked a turn near Hume and Las Flores. A moment’s inattention on a diminishing radius turn and he’s gone. Riding is playing… but its also a skill. Always always always treat your riding like a skill that takes devotion and patience. Have fun… but never bite off more than you can chew and never be afraid to slow down or take a break. I’m not a fan of fondos and fun rides…. they tend to celebrate disconnected riding. I hate that someone died on that road. I hate that the shop chose Las Flores when there are other descents that take so much less skill (when I read the email I commented to a friend that it was too technical a descent for that kind of ride and that someone would get killed). I’m tired of seeing folks ride like it doesn’t take skill. I’m tired of seeing guys that are more worried with getting faster than they are about getting better.
I traded messages with a friend… we host a slow long Saturday ride up the coast. We’ve decided to change the focus of the ride to being about the group riding old school, perfectly aligned 2 abreast with nary a wheel overlapping. I love the Lance effect and all… but how you ride is what matters. It’s easy to get strong, it’s an endless conversation with yourself and the bike to get connected. Ride beautifully. It’s what matters.

You may think it’s ok to die riding because its doing something you love. I call bullshit. Dying having overcooked a turn is a real shit way to die. We’ve all over cooked a turn in our lives… its not worth dying over and knowing how to save it is a basic skill. Yes it takes luck. Yes people die every day in any number of stupid ways, and people die on their bikes.

Work on your descending. Dont get suckered into anything above your level. Dont be afraid to melt a rim or pull off and think about the next set of turns. And really think about those big group rides. If the nature of the ride is that being off the front or the top ten folks is the only good place to be… tap out. It’s not worth it. I love Rapha products. I’ve come to love them. I love the branding and the adverts… but you know it isn’t real. Don’t show up for that ride thinking what you see on the website is real. Riding isn’t a sentimental act. It’s not romantic until you’re off the bike and the photos are processed and printed. Ride present, ride smart, think critically and make your own luck.

I saw a picture of the guy… he looks like he was a lovely fellow. His bars were too high, too many spacers. I’m willing to bet his stem was too short. How you sit on a bike matters. How your bike fits matters. How much weight you have and where your center of gravity is going down a hill matters. It’s life and death.

Thanks for indulging my rant. I’ll probably take this down later.

*edit. I’m inclined to add that i dont represent any company veiw here. i dont speak for any entitiy or person involved with Vanilla. these are just ideas in print about something tragic for all parties. any conversation is important.

Part of this conversation has already happened in the dq thread

gonna put this here
coz i know there was a comment on the speedvagen blog about there being a regroup and warning to riders before the descent

[QUOTE=beeatnik]There was talk about the descent, but only amongst the team riders (Ritte, USC, some Bike Effect regulars) or guys who seemed acquainted with each other, maybe half the guys there. And this was at the top of Stunt, where if you know the area, you have the beautiful Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Monica Mountains on the other. In any case, none of the guys I rode with heard the “warnings.”

I should add that I don’t want to create the perception that I feel there are issues of liability or forethought. I recently started a thread about silly crashes. That kind of stuff has been on my mind. I may be unreasonable or deluded to believe that I can learn to manage every situation (my nature, possibly) with enough information. But I know there are infinite variables. I’m a grown man and the bottom line for me is that I should know enough to avoid unnecessarily dangerous situations (hard to define, I know). Descending Las Flores with the awareness of the tight spaces, fatigue, fast vehicle traffic, varying skill levels, I felt that I was risking too much. Too many variables. I worried about the same type of crash that Roberto suffered. Bottom line, it could have happened to me and I had those thoughts before the crash. I dont think most guys flying down Las Flores had the same thoughts. I wouldn’t expect an elegant rider to be spooked, but a recreational cyclist like me (as skilled I believe myself to be) should always learn from fear.[/QUOTE]

Emphasis mine…

I was there, I will try to exercise tact.

Large group rides or experience level
Heard this comment just before the ride, “there are too many new bikes here.” The guy who made the comment was in full Rapha and peeled off 5 min early. He was afraid of crashing his murdered-out Canyon. Then, in the first mile, my friend’s buddy, riding a new Time, kept making comments about his bike being twitchy and the amount of riders. These were only 2 riders out of 50 plus but I imagine there were a few other guys out there just as anxious. I guess this speaks to the various experience levels on the ride.

The route
A female rider crashed on the first, less technical descent.

The rider
I rode behind him on the final climb for about a minute or two. I’m no cycling coach but I concluded he had years of experience (but according to his brother, he did not) since he was one of the stronger climbers and had great technique. He was also one of the oldest if not the oldest rider in the group. It’s not difficult to sense motivation and drive in a rider’s style.

The rider’s group
He was following the line of a much more experienced (30 years) UCI licensed rider.

The descent
Right from the start, all I heard was squealing. The squealing of brakes in front of me. Then, I overcooked a corner and a very aggressive rider behind me screamed at me. The crash occurred a few seconds later.

The organization of the ride
A beautiful morning. A few nice speeches. The usual, “this is not a race but a social ride.” And that was the nature of the ride, except, I’m sure I wasn’t the only rider who didn’t expect a “technical” descent. I was out there on 5 hours of sleep with new wheels and a not dialed-in cockpit. In any case, no warnings were given about the descent, even a perfunctory one.

The demographics of the ride
No one over 60 and 5 women. Also the slowest riders were the youngest, the USC Cycling kids. So, out of 7 “outliers” there were 2 crashes on descents. Not wheels touching or other lapses of etiquette[/quote]

and this about the descent.
i’ll post this since most of you guys probably aren’t going to read the links…


How tough is the Las Flores descent?

I have to take issue with the description of this road given by Robert’s brother. He says “The terrain wasn’t unusual, too risky or unfamiliar. We had ridden this kind of terrain and far harder many times before.” Yet we know this was Robert’s first time down Las Flores, therefore it was, by definition, completely unfamiliar. More than simply unfamiliar, for a first-timer, regardless of skill, Las Flores is an alien deathscape laden with traps and tricks. Even the statement that they had ridden “this kind of terrain and far harder many times before” speaks volumes about their skills. Every descent is different, and no skilled descender assumes that a downhill even one road away is similar to the current one.

In my experience there’s no such thing as “far harder” than Las Flores. I’ve ridden in Colorado, in Europe, and throughout the mountains of Japan, and after thirty years of going up and going down, I’ve run across a handful of descents as beastly as this one. There are descents that are harder in that they are longer, or they have tighter turns, or they are on narrower roads, or because it’s your first time down. But “far harder” than Las Flores? It is a white-knuckle descent no matter how many times you go down it, and it demands all your ability every single time. No exceptions.

Various people have posted or blogged that Las Flores is pretty ordinary for a descent, or that they go down it all the time and it’s NBD, or have suggested that there was nothing questionable or unsuitable about this downhill. That’s crazy.

My best descent on Las Flores is 29.6 mph, good enough for 11th place on Strava, and I can tell you that even at much slower speeds it’s always dicey. The first hard right turn before you drop off into the trees is off camber, incredibly tight, and comes after a series of gentler turns with a short, straight drop that instantly ramps up your speed. It’s a shocker and a hard corner to handle every single time.

The twists en route to Hume are treacherous because the road is spiked with debris, with steep ramps, more off camber turns, insufficient room for oncoming traffic, narrow lanes, and speed, speed, speed. When you get to PCH and touch your rims after a Las Flores descent they are so hot they burn your fingers. I’ve seen good riders who know the descent intimately spill it on this downhill.

Patrick Brady’s blog describes it as “a challenging descent.” He also points out that the previous ride descended Tuna, an even harder descent, without incident. Patrick is one of the best descenders in the Santa Monica Mountains. He knows every inch of the pavement of every single descent. He gives descending lessons at local bike shops. It took me three years of assiduous practice just to get where I could keep him in sight on descents like Las Flores.

If it’s “challenging” for Patrick, that means one thing and one thing only to novices, or first-timers: It’s dangerous as hell.

So I don’t believe that Robert was in his element. To the contrary, I believe that he was out of it. All of us have been there before, and will be there again. It’s no disgrace and no dishonor to be sliding sideways on Las Flores Canyon Road. But is that really all it was? Tough road, inexperienced rider, and some bad luck?[/quote]

Makes me want to fly to LA, ride the descent and take the #1 spot on Strava, then come back can call bullshit on all of this.

I find it fascinating how people are reacting to a topic that – for many of us – hits close to home. Anger, finger-pointing, pensive reflection – a wide gamut of raw human emotion.

I’ve gone down hard enough on flat ground under 15mph to crack a Catlike. I’m not going to start crocheting. I just hope we can all learn from this. Keep the shiny side up.

FWIW My comment was directed at posters on Serotta/VSalon.
What does Strava say is the #1speed for this descent?

Point being, everyone has an opinion and nobody’s opinion matters. The best thing that anyone can say is, “RIP cyclist” and stop pontificating on the subject.

^ no kidding.

what is the point of speculating about this guy’s skill? it’s a done deal.

all there is to it:

ride organizers should probably let people know what they are getting themselves into

people should be responsible about what they are getting themselves into if they value their life

it sucks when people die

[quote=Bahamontes]FWIW My comment was directed at posters on Serotta/VSalon.
What does Strava say is the #1speed for this descent?[/quote]

There’s two that match:

6:16 seems to be about the best time with an average speed of 32.4 average grade is -8.7% with a 1500ft elevation loss over 3.4 miles.

do it bro

Wouldn’t prove anything, really. It’s all still bullshit. It’s also no beast of a road. It’s just an average 1500ft descent in the California mountains. I stepped through it on streetview. There’s a couple of switchbacks, a bunch of sweepers and what looks like a few steep, fast sections. There’s one gnarly switchback with a guardrail that could bite you. Looks like fun, actually.

You know more than anyone, Dr. Wikipedia, that the only use of an e-peen is to be measured.


do it bro[/quote]

my guest room is open and available.

You’re right.

I suppose my point is that you don’t have to be part of some special crü with a slammed stem and a saddle set way back to make it down a hill. Supposedly, Grant Petersen is the fastest guy there is down Mt. Diablo. It’s also something that doesn’t take a lot of skill. Sure, it takes some, but that can be learned fairly quickly. Basically, any time one is on a twisty descent with speeds over 30mph, things can go really awry.

u gonna die

no hal britt please dont