skittering sting rends the air overhead. Then slightly askew another
stuttering path siffles through the leaves above. Again and again.
Dappled openings to the sky multiply as leaves rip and turn aside
with small but intense pops, flips and stats. It is like being
swarmed by vengeful tiny titanium wasps. All around us several dull
thuds into bark, then a singular loud metallic ping as lead hits
"Wow, the movies don't make these sounds up. They're real!"
I had just
crested the last of the challenging
Purgatory Road rollers. We
were at the top of the Hamptonburg Alps, and I was about to
pat myself on the back how the only Irish Maniac ahead of me
was Matt, when all this hell broke loose.
A half dozen
riders led by the remaining Maniacs, were close behind and
I fumbled for
the appropriate warning shout. Should I yell car up, debris or rough
road? Should it be gravel, HOLE, standing or sand? Merely point up
into the trees? No?INCOMING!
I never got
the word out. I was transfixed by the vision of two kids (one about
eight, the other four) moving toward the road with one aggressively,
like a little plastic soldier, aiming a pellet rifle.
Don (The Lone
Rider) Lee had passed them first. Apparently the large group of
cyclists in his tow was just too tempting a target. The little
marksman had emptied his gun, quickly adjusting lead and trajectory
until the final shot hammered and denuded a permanent quarter-inch
circle with a deep dimple precisely on the "A" in the "Giant" logo
on Matt's seat tube, just missing...well, his leg.
Of course we
can all identify with targeting an "A" on a bike, plus that shot
also permanently applied the wonderful nom "Bull's-Eye" to Matt.
However kids shouldn't be shooting at cyclists, so about a quarter
mile down the hill we were regrouping at the stop sign when
(Shiftless) John Handago said, "Somebody should tell their parents."
misguided sense of duty pushed me to turn back up the hill thinking,
"Yeah, and maybe somebody should tell Shiftless to keep quiet," but that's how I ended up being the first to coast into the driveway of
As I passed
onto private property, everything was ominously still. The day had
grayed over. The tree line over the driveway thickened to accentuate
the gloom. As if a sudden storm was approaching, slight and nearly
seen noiseless lightening flashes peppered just outside of
consciousness. It was almost total quiet, except of course for the
barking Pit Bull.
That Pit Bull
had the largest head I've ever seen on a dog. I kept reminding
myself that it was just a frightened puppy tied to a tree, more
worried of me than I was of it. Then I got close enough to see it
was tied to a broad trunked oak by the heaviest chain I've seen
outside a tractor pull. This was too reminiscent of Francis Ford
movie Apocalypse Now. The
farther up this river I got, the weirder things were getting.
by the dog that strained on the end of its chain, I turned and found
myself surrounded by a group of tattooed, pumped-up and shirtless
skin-heads emerging from an open garage full of free weights, bench
press machines and workout paraphernalia. They all looked to be
about 16 to 17 years old. I tried not to think about ritual slayings
of oxen. I'm sure I did not hear drums beating in the distance. Our
young shooters were absent.
any parents in charge here?" I hoped.
Not-necessarily-the-oldest-looking stepped forward, "I'm in charge,
what do you want?"
just shot at us from your front yard."
"That was the
four year old. I'm sorry. He'll be punished."
to think what 'punished' meant, but it was said just in time for
Shiftless to arrive, then one of the Maniacs, then another
and another of our crew. Our brightly colored Spider Man costumes
and fashionable bikes seemed slightly out of place.
Shiftless had a
few words with the "parent" about how kids should be taken to
shooting ranges for that kind of stuff. How they shouldn't be
allowed to roam wild with firearms. How they...well, the two of them
butted chests for awhile until Mr. Parent says, "Look we said we
were sorry, but if you want to take it farther...?" He pushed a little
deeper into Shiftless' chest as I interjected, "Well, good. Looks
like we've got that settled then. Apology accepted. Time for us to
go. Thank you for your time. Sorry to interrupt your workout,
daemonic ritual, ox-roast, whatever. Don't forget about the OCBC
Saturday rides?Big-V parking lot. See ya later. Toodle-ooh."
cheery wave, and a little scratch of gravel coming up from my rear
And that was
it, just another in a long series of adventures with the Irish
By the way,
if you want to get the drop on (Bull's-Eye) Matt, just hang back a
little approaching a hill and say, "Matt, you go on ahead and draw
fire." Then shift down a gear and hammer it...but back to the main
always excitement when the Maniacs show up. Each ride becomes
a quest. I first found out what these guys are all about on August
5th last year. I know the date because my riding log shows a string
of 16 to 35 mile rides all spring and summer, then a 79 miler out of
Of course I
already knew that the Maniacs push the pace into "YOU CALL
THIS A..." territory during the Monday Recovery Ride. I also
knew they got their collective nom when Mary (The Black Widow)
Endico told someone on the Wednesday Hump Day with R&R
that she had to take it easy because tomorrow she was going to a
ride in Washingtonville with, "those...those..those Irish maniacs!" To which
she received the immediate reply, "Oh those guys. Yeah I know those
guys. They ARE maniacs."
So when the Maniacs invited me to a
Sunday morning jaunt from Monroe to Port Jervis I knew things might
get a little brutal, but I was about to find out they are much more
than mere cycling fanatics.
is the typical story about a lost job resulting in a new partnership
and a heart attack resulting in a new hobby. Well maybe not so
typical, considering the heart attack.
Maniacs are three brothers and a nephew. There are other
maniacal members that show up from time to time, all in the same
family?the Vincents. The oldest and ring leader of the core group is
(King) Richard. He's the one with the heart attack and also the lost
A while back
Richard lost his job and got together with his brother to start
their own business. They could only put together $5,000 while
naysayers were telling them they'd need at least $100,000...just to
get started. Of course Maniacs don't let little words like
'impossible' get in their way. They just do it.
Now a little
motorcade of black Lexus's pull into the parking lot of OCBC rides
to herald their arrival while providing testament to tenacity,
commitment, and talent.
business is in the niche market of metal embossing, the kind you
find on Christmas cards. (King) Richard is reported to be the third
best in his field. However when you get to know him you'll agree
that the words "third best in his field' mean he's as good as the
best, but his modesty refuses to allow anybody around him say any
more than third. If you ask for promotional material you'll be told
there isn't any, it works mostly by word of mouth. I've concluded
this follows the old farmer's saw, "If it was any good, they wouldn't have to advertise it."
Their work is good, and they don't
have to advertise it.
Not so long
ago (King) Richard had his heart attack. As part of his comeback,
his exercise and hobby became cycling. Recently hearing about
Richard?s heart attack, Don (The Starkmeister) Stark, who's been on
The Hump with him, reacted thus: "Hmm...he had a heart attack?
Now he's GIVING them!"
Of course Richard
has heard enough about genetic
predisposition to get as many in his family as possible involved
with cycling also.
It is this organizational bent that earned him
his nom King Richard and brought us The Irish Maniacs.
are all about family values. No, not the political football "Family
Values" that seeks to denigrate women and squelch anybody that won't
follow the theocratic line, but real family values that focuses on
teamwork, support and lending a helping hand. You can see it
whenever they are around their kids, other family members or, for
that matter, anybody that shows up for a ride. I saw it first on
that long day in August going from Monroe to Port Jervis and back.
definitely the weakest one on that ride, but they made a game out of
keeping me with the group. It was just after Lance won another Tour.
I had on my standard yellow jersey while they were de rigueur in
their red-orange Mel's Original Bicycle Shop shirts.
christened me Lance and set about keeping me out of the wind, saving
me for the big climb. The first half of our 79 mile ride put us past
Port Jervis and into the parking lot of Action Outfitters in
There we got
to see Jamie at work. His dad had been driving Jamie to OCBC rides
all summer where Jamie harassed us with one of the fastest shifts in
Like many a fast rider, Jamie also works in a bike shop and
often misses club rides, giving up prime riding time in order to
keep the rest of us on the road. I'm sure we all agree these are
very special people, and it was exciting to get to hang out with a
true cycling pro in the middle of a ride.
quick visit with Jamie we hammered back through Port Jervis, where
the Maniacs kept my Lance dream alive by yelling, "Go Lance,"
'Maillot Jaune," and by letting me pull through town, downhill, etc.
Finally we were standing at the traffic light below the four mile
climb up Route 6.
It was hot
and hazy. I turned around to see the Maniacs lined up behind
me. See the picture at the top of this article? It looked just like that except Larry had his
helmet on. All of a sudden I realized, "This is it! I've made it.
Here I am with strong riders...of the kind heroes are made of, more
than half way through a long ride, and I'm not yet dropped."
way up the climb (King) Richard was riding beside me talking, and I
was trying to explain how pulling Lance to the hill meant just
getting him to it. It was then supposed to be Lance who got himself
up the hill. I gasped that this current variation in which a
Lance-alike gets pulled to the hill then also coaxed up the hill,
was just a little outr? I convinced him to go on ahead and ride
with the other Maniacs.
later Joey drifted back and was talking to me. I figured he was a
new rider and not so strong. Finally he was rested and went on
(The Big Red Machine) was beside me. Larry lives in Dingmans Ferry,
PA and gauges a ride based on the best food stops. On his own time
he places arrows on the road pointing to the good Deli's. You don't
have to think twice about where to stop. As for turn markers you're
on your own, but the snack markers are all taken care of for you west of the
Delaware River. Given his penchant for the sub, I wasn't much
surprised when Larry dropped back. I was only surprised by how
strong he was despite the lack of training rigor. After "Big Red"
moved on ahead I found myself talking to the as yet un-nom'd
(Bull's-Eye) Matt. We talked about the heat, the climb etc.
Actually, Mat talked while I wheezed.
until Brian (The Kid) was just off my shoulder that I figured it
out, "These guys are taking turns baby sitting me!"
doing it so subtly I hadn't noticed. That's just the way they are.
They're going to help you out, and they aren't going to embarrass
you in the process. To this very day I can't get a single one of
them to admit they are waiting for me. It's always, "Whoa Slingshot! You're strong today. You're riding like a mad man...like a man
possessed. Are you on drugs? What have you been taking?"
reason it finally got through to me that day in August is because
Brian rides in a whole different universe. When he showed up beside
me, there was just no way that I could fool myself into thinking,
"Hah, not so easily done. He had to drop back!"
Last year I
always tried to do my little part to challenge Brian by maxing out
my breathing and heart rate coming out of the parking lot, then
hanging on as long as I could after his "fast" button was pushed.
This year he's 20lbs lighter and has been riding incessantly,
despite his new driver's license. So now I can't even do my little part at
pushing his buttons any more. This week I chased him with the help
of the other Maniacs. Try as we might, he always stayed the
same 200 yards ahead, spinning casually, playing with us. We could
see him, but we couldn't catch him for about ten miles...then he was
Saturday mornings when the pros show up, the unfortunate "Kid"
to ride alone most of the time.
There's nobody to push him, nobody
for him to draft behind, nobody to practice pacelining with, nobody
to see him pedaling back into the parking lot a half hour before
anybody else. His nom "The Kid" is an obvious reference to the young
Lance Armstrong. In a sport that has been called the most difficult
sport in the world, Brian is a standout. If the local schools
offered bicycling competitions, Brian would be a star.
So heed my
plea! Somebody help us! Somebody with real speed (maybe one of the
pro riders Brian stays with on Saturday) has got to start showing up
for the Thursday and Monday rides to show him a good time. The guilt
(and pace) is going to kill me.
pitch. The Thursday ride is an unofficial OCBC ride. We've tried to
elect a leader and make it official several times, but everyone in
attendance always demurs.
Somebody always starts,
"We just need a
phone number for people to call." Then somebody counters, "Look,
none of us had any illusions coming into this. We were totally up
front and honest about it being just for fun. Do we really need to
mess it up with a commitment?" Except there was that day Rob (The
Cardinal) Daly was the only one missing, and we elected him leader
in absentia. He doesn't know about it yet, so don't tell him. Also
be sure not to call him at: 845-497-2208. We've deemed it the: "We
doh nee no steeeking leaders" ride.
ride starts at Round Hill School
6:00 pm. It is unpublished
and unofficial but has gone out very regularly since the beginning
of last year. Round Hill School is on 208 just
2.3 miles south of the light in Washingtonville. Or 4 miles north of
17 (the Quickway) in Monroe. Or take 94 North from McDonalds on 17M
in Chester 5.8 miles then turn right onto Round Hill Road. Follow
the yellow line for 1.1 miles and make a right at the stop sign. The
school's just another 1/8th mile on your left.
winds through the lovely Hamptonburg Alps. That's what we
call the area. You may call it something else, especially if you try
to stay behind Brian. The ride is a spin-off of the Monday Night
(You Call This a) Recovery Ride, and many of the same people show
up. The original course was designed by (The Cardinal) Rob Daly. It
was advertised at the time as, "Rob knows a good hill. Let's do it
Thursday." There's a challenging climb up Goshen Road. Sometimes we
do the Double Dip which adds the equally tough
Cherry Hill Road.
Scott did a study and found that adding the Double Dip
provides a total of 1330 feet of climb. The original ride is 20.3
miles while the favorite alternate route, taking Egbertson Road
instead of Cambell Hall Road, is 23.4 miles. The
spur adds only .1 mile to both, but it feels like more. There are
several flat miles along County Route 4 that are great for
As with the
Monday Night ride it starts with everyone explaining how tired they
are, how they haven't been getting out much and how they are going
to go slow...no really, actually going to go slow for a
Then somebody always laughs, so it is re-stated,
"No, I mean it. I'm going slow...no really, I'm serious!"
Then the ride starts and
Brian or somebody gets a little ahead, then somebody else tries to
catch up, then somebody else gets nervous about getting dropped...then
it's hammer time.
But also as
with the Monday Night ride, there is always someone who's glad to
show the route to new people, make sure they don't get dropped and
actually go slow if they want.
Although there's no real leader, it
seems everyone that shows up is considerate and thoughtful to make
sure nobody has a bad ride. Seth leads the Monday night ride and
often attends Thursdays and carries his skills over. That is to say,
he's glad to go along chatting happily at the slowest of paces, but
he can hammer your butt to a wall if that's what you want...what you
really, really want.
There are cue
sheets for the two Thursday routes available at:
help us with Brian (The Kid) Vincent. If you're not strong enough
yet, we'll get you in shape. Then you can report back what it's like
to actually ride with him.
You can also help us figure out why
stopping for a 64 ounce milkshake on the way home to Dingmans Ferry
never seems to impede (The Big Red Machine) Larry's performance.
He's also way too strong.
What with the
Maniacs, the hills and the long pacelining opportunities (with
instruction), we've got it all.
We can't promise adventures like
being shot at by skin-heads every week (those guys are long gone),
but there's always something special.
Such as: during a recent ride
Seth bent his big chain ring. You should have seen it. Not just
bent, but crisply folded into a little origami bird. I'm used to
being mangled like that by Seth on any given hill, but I've never
seen anybody do that to a chain ring...and from everybody else's
gaping jaws, I'm guessing it was new to them too.
If you are
truly worried about the pace: Well, I am myself personally tired of
the constant maniacal hammering and am more than willing to show you
I promise I'll take it easy and go slow...no really, I'm