Nov 8  |  Death.

Posted by , November 8th, 2011 at 1:44PM    

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.


  1. […] […]

    Pingback by Tragic crash on Rapha Gentlemen's Ride — November 8, 2011 @ 5:21 pm    

  2. Well said. Please leave it.

    Comment by Kevin g — November 8, 2011 @ 7:34 pm    

  3. the point if this is that we all need to think about the other, the self, the rides we plan and who’s on them… and that it’s easy to not be vigilant. i’m not sure that these kinds rides are a good idea… i think they’re more a product of internet and social sites than good judgment.
    rides are great…. but give pause. think about the route. think about the road. ask yourself what it is that you’re doing and where you are.
    and if you’re promoting a ride… think deeply about the route, the participants, the potential consequences and dont be afraid to keep it simple.

    no one deserves to have this happen to them for not asking those questions.

    this isn’t about blame. its about heartreak.

    Comment by Noel — November 8, 2011 @ 7:42 pm    

  4. we’ve all overcooked turns, we’ve all put ourselves in hairy situations, and we’ve all made stupid mistakes that could have been avoided.

    what happened to robert hyndman was very unfortunate but it could have easily been any one of us.

    to blame the guy and basically blame the crash on the fact that he was a “fred” is pointless.

    “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.”

    i go down las flores all the time. most of that is moot. when it comes down to it, he was going down too fast and wasn’t familiar with the turns.

    Comment by mike — November 8, 2011 @ 10:51 pm    

  5. […] have lionized Robert for dying while doing what he loved, he thought dying on his bike was “a shit way to die.” I can’t disagree. I’m sure his parents ache for not having a chance to say goodbye. When I […]

    Pingback by Risk vs. Danger : Red Kite Prayer — November 8, 2011 @ 11:00 pm    

  6. i’n chasing a deeper question about this recent trend towards quasi organized rides on these roads… and understanding the desires and skill levels of the cyclists involved. this is one of a handful of extremely dangerous descents…. and in Los Angeles… is this kind of event really worth having? Is it worth it?

    the comments about the bike have everything to do with the reality that a 14% grade after a rain on an open shitty road isn’t always best left to the judgment of the guy that’s there to have fun. what responsiblity is there to represent the truth that not every descent is for every skill level?

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 1:00 am    

  7. i’m mad at myself for receiving the email and saying to my friend matt… wow.. someone is going to get killed. why didn’t i call the shop and say.. wtf are you doing?

    are these kinds of rides a good idea? is the franchising of the small personal epic experience into a well intentioned novel large public group ride on open roads someting that should evolve or does it merit revisiting?

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 1:01 am    

  8. Sacha – really?

    What a pseudointellectual regurgitation of the same blabber that swoop has stated before – now in the context of a man who died. Pathetic does not describe this senseless rambling.

    Please keep this up – it is an embarrassment to speedvagen, the cycling industry and the cycling community.

    Comment by Jens — November 9, 2011 @ 8:10 am    

  9. more.

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 8:25 am    

  10. Noel,

    A few things you should know in response to what you’ve written:
    – The ride route was created by locals who live and ride from Santa Monica, not just Google’d by out of towners.
    – There was a regrouping before the descent where people were reminded that it was tricky (dangerous is an overstatement- all descents are dangerous) and people were offered up a different route if they wanted.
    – Robert’s position might not up to your Vanilla ‘standards’, but bar position and spacers are not a real measure for someone’s ability. Robert was more than experienced and capable for Las Flores.
    – He wasn’t being reckless, reports are that he was actually going very slow, but hit the brakes at the same time as a bump…and we’ve all likely been there at the scary moment before.

    If you want to talk more about it please call me at 503.703.4830 or you can call Steven at Bike Effect. I don’t think blogging that “you should have stopped it” is really fair or of much value.

    Thank you,
    Slate Olson

    Comment by Slate Olson — November 9, 2011 @ 8:59 am    

  11. Slate… there’s a trend in town lately for these kinds of rides. Are they a good idea?
    I know everyone has the best of intentions….
    the trend is that the routes are getting more epic (more technical climbs and descents).
    locally there’s the la grange hill climb up piuma, there’s the old school race up mulholland, there was the cancer ride up yerba a few weeks ago, there was the colnago fondo…

    every weekend it seems there’s a new fondo style ride in malibu…. and there’s no critical dialogue about it… it’s a growing trend…

    it’s a good opportunity to visit how and why we do these things… and whether or not they are apporopriate.i know i’m not alone in feeling this way.

    There’s so many established rides here on any given day… do we need these?

    My heart is as heavy for you as it as the shop guys. I don’t think its a bad conversation to have. It’s certainly not comfortable trying to find the right way to have it.

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 9:09 am    

  12. […] Death. « Speedbloggen: 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. […]

    Pingback by Death. « Speedbloggen « turnings :: daniel berlinger — November 9, 2011 @ 9:13 am    

  13. Robert’s brother wrote a nice account of the ride somewhere. In it he emphasized what a great time they were having, absorbing the scenery and that he’d been riding for a couple of years.
    Your points are well-taken.
    I’ve been riding for decades and still learn things, including things I’d forgotten.
    I’m sorry Robert didn’t have a chance to re-learn things.

    Comment by Jim — November 9, 2011 @ 9:42 am    

  14. enough said, but please leave it on the site…….

    Comment by nige — November 9, 2011 @ 10:59 am    

  15. Here is the letter from Robert’s brother below that I think is helpful for people to have

    There is a memorial ride being planned by the LA community from BikeEffect. You can learn more here and on BikeEffect’s Facebook page:

    Dear Friends and Riding Companions,
    I wanted to write this in hopes I can alleviate some heavy hearts and misunderstandings that may surround this day. My name is Carl Hyndman and I am the younger brother of Robert Hyndman who died in yesterday’s accident. We are from Orange County and love bike riding. I have been riding for over 30 years and live and breath this special sport and am as passionate as anyone. I ride and race in both mountain and road. I have my UCI license and live the culture of cycling as did my brother Robert.

    Robert is a bit newer to the sport but has embraced it beyond anyone’s expectations. He has always lived an active life and found cycling a couple of years ago and has literally fallen in to the culture and lifestyle that surrounds it. Robert is the part of a close family that includes 5 brothers and a sister and immigrant Portuguese parents from Hong Kong. He was the middle child and was a successful writer who worked from his home in Laguna Beach. As a child and throughout his life, he would read everything and anything that he was interested in and had a calm and soothing aura around him. He didn’t just causally get involved with things, he grabbed life by the horns and embraced all that life could offer. It was no surprise that his passion would progress his interest to the finer things including his love for Italian bikes, amazing scenery and the surrounding of close friends. His natural ability progressed him to the point of racing, and travels for epic adventures. We shared many miles together and loved riding the mountains in places like Santa Cruz and Marin where some of our family lives.

    However, Robert was the balance in my life. I am the risk-taker, the action sports athlete and thrill-seeker. I’m known to throw caution to the wind and push my abilities. Robert was much different. He was very calculated and never took unnecessary risks. Yes he felt his natural athletic ability, but it was always within his control and comfort zone.

    We recently heard about this ride and wanted to experience another great adventure and included a few other friends from our area to enjoy as a group. The shop, the surrounding culture and the terrain is all part of what we feel represents our passion and lifestyle. Although we may not know most of you, we feel an indirect kinship for a common love and interest. This one was of those unfortunate accidents that we don’t see coming in our lives. Only seconds before, I was riding in front of him laughing and having the time of our lives. We marveled at the surrounding and embraced it. The terrain wasn’t unusual, too risky or unfamiliar. We had ridden this kind of terrain and far harder many times before. It could have happened just as easily on PCH or a curb across the street. He died in my arms and went doing what he loved to do.

    So please ride for him and keep a special place in your heart for my fallen brother. Thank you and feel free to contact me at any time at this e-mail address. Also, please feel free to forward this letter to anyone else that may want or need to hear this story. I’m sure I missed some people since Robert touched such a big set of friends and family, so do me this small favor and spread the word.
    Carl Hyndman

    Comment by Slate Olson — November 9, 2011 @ 11:22 am    

  16. i believe if he’s never descended that canyon that the terrain is specifically unfamilair. i also believe that one’s position on the bike matters. and that this road is lumpy and typically has rocks in corners after a rain… so having a bike set up high on the front end may be a factor when one loses control.

    and i know that my point is that there has to be a bigger conversation about this trend towards these marketed unsanctioned rides, the consequences to the local community, and the responsiblity we have… there’s not even a system for ranking climbs and descents. there’s a lot to talk about.

    i’ve read the serotta forums (i am not cowgirl and have no idea who is or was), and the vsalon…. and i think most folks are having a strong response to either the tone or a sense of the comments about position. i wrote exactly what i’d say to a friend over coffee…. i’m not editing myself and the ensuing conversation about these newer group rides is important because the consequences are so high.

    i don’t know that these kinds of rides are good for the community, the shop, the sport, or the individual. the way we engage our sport is changing… and how we are marketed to is part of how its romanticized. Las Flores and Tuna are both extremely difficult descents…. and they should be presented to a group of unfamiliar riders carefully. This conversation is important.

    the comment about spacers seems to be a button pusher. but i think there’s something not talked about… that ones position on a bike in some situations can lead to catastrophe. and so that if you sit on a bike a certain way and the terrain isn’t idea for that position… that there needs to be some critical thinking taking place. i see too many people rotated to far up and back for god knows what reason and there are consequences to this. a fast lumpy, broken up road isn’t the place to work this thig out. call me elitist. confronting where your hands are when your pointed down the corner and hitting a bump.. in that moment might ne the thing that is life and death.

    the first thing i thought when i saw his picture… aside from what a sweet looking guy he was (honestly)… shit.. look at those spacers. no wonder.

    the old shop rides focused on staying on pch. we took folks up the local climbs and things looked too sketch so we changed the ride. that kind of thinking seems to have gone south. the best i can do to memorialize this death is say this shit out loud. ok, that’s all i’ve got on it. flame away.

    the woman that went down is a friend and training partner. she’s a national level champion masters rider and one of the best descenders i know. and she lost it on the easy familiar descent.

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 12:21 pm    

  17. It was an accident .. The Fondos and such are great for our sport! I believe from what I have read everyone was informed of the decent and given options. what more is needed flat ride on a straight road out and back? I won’t even comment on the bike fit comment

    Comment by Suze Sonye — November 9, 2011 @ 4:26 pm    

  18. thanks Suz. I like Seth’s perspective.

    Comment by Noel — November 9, 2011 @ 4:53 pm    

  19. When someone dies, tribute posts have their place. When that death holds lessons, that post has its place. Those who knew Robert and are grief stricken can take comfort in the tribute posts. The rest of us should take advantage of the opportunity to learn the lesson.
    You can bet that many people read this and will take the lesson with them on the next ride, saving someone else from creating another tribute post.

    Comment by Jesse Smith — November 9, 2011 @ 8:05 pm    

  20. I see some guys from the flats who don’t climb, go the the gym to spin, and show up at these Gran Fundo events. In Norcal Levi’s ride is always absolute carnage. Hell, the hills around my house prey on the weak, killing 2-3 a year.
    You can’t descend if you never climb, you can’t be taught if you think you know everything, a problem in our culture I’m positive. The humility necessary to learn is gone from a lot of quarters and with it applied thinking.
    Indeed shit happens, but one can minimize the size and frequency of those loaves.

    Comment by Jim — November 9, 2011 @ 9:46 pm    

  21. Size matters as well as fit. It’s easy to surmise that the rider got scared and panicked. More reason that unskilled riders should get to know the road before charging downhill. Fear has no place on the road.

    Comment by Jim — November 10, 2011 @ 4:43 am    

  22. i think i’m still observing that it’s really easy to make a ride and a route and not think about little things like… how on local rides we all police each other just out of habit. but organized rides bring a different mentality… and there needs to be a better discussion about how to manage people onthe more difficult canyons or whether or not these kinds of rides elevate the dangers in quantifiable ways…. as i think they do.
    this isnt just a guy coming to a random end to me… as we’ve all seen and known folks that have died cycling… this one feels like there’s a teachable moment in there (and has to be talked through because all of the sudden there’s all these new rides marketed and promoted)
    i know folks are getting hung up on the lines about fit.

    how else do you notice someone in these situations if they arent a local? we all make judgments about who’s around us… this isn’t elitism… it’s part of understandthing the surround. we all know each other’s schtick so well and also by habit deal in a good way with folks that are new or facing unknown hazards.. when the situation calls for it.

    this isnt the normal someone got killed riding. its more than that because of the context and the choices we make about where to ride.

    when a guy that raced the giro and trained out here chimes in that this descent in particular is not for newer riders…. it holds weight. i read what my dear friend Patrick Brady wrote… I love Patrick… but he’s pandering to an audience rather than embracing the whole conversation. On facebook, the local cat2 state champ refuses that canyon in general… because it doesn’t prepare him for any race and it’s too gnarly.

    the guy from the shop… i’ve met him but dont know him (he knows the bike shop business and i support him). i feel for him. he’s been in the shop bussiness here for years. i’ve never seen him on a ride. ever. that doesn’t mean anything… but it means a lot.

    i make a living speaking to unbearable feelings and thoughts (and sitting in the inexplicable with the grieving). that doesn’t mean this is a right or wrong time to talk about these things… from what happened…. my point is this conversation is late. these rides are a local phenom and haven’t been fully thought out….

    the personal attacks towards me on the message boards mean nothing to me. they aren’t about me. the conversation is uncomfortable. i’m not editing the point of view to appear like i’m buddha, nor am i softening it to make the reader feel good. i love that its being discussed passionately. that is the point.

    Comment by Noel — November 10, 2011 @ 8:08 am    

  23. First, I am sorry to hear of this guy’s passing. It sucks. I am not going to blame him or anyone else. I am going to however try to chip in some lessons from my perspective as a relative noob on PCH hill riding.
    I have a friend who lives in LA and we ride the hills every time I visit. I don’t know if I have ridden this particular hill or not but I have ridden ones very similar. They are quite intimidating for a NY/TX boy like me and I always take it very conservatively on the downhills and always double-check the mechanical condition of the bike I am borrowing. Rolling a tire or breaking a spoke on a low spoke count wheel in one of those descents would be devastating.

    Comment by tylernol — November 10, 2011 @ 9:03 am    

  24. Slate, Steven please read Seth’s post. You might think differently about what happened.

    Comment by Jim — November 10, 2011 @ 1:50 pm    

  25. Hey, let’s move on. I’m sure Slate has thunk and felt through more of this than anyone needs to and has thought and felt through every angle and feeling. It’s been chatted through ad naseum from the bleachers here…. and it is what it is.

    We all mourn and learn and are in this together. I have nothing but respect for Rapha and Bike Effect and the conversation will go as it goes. These guys all are doing great work.. we dont need to rally them to hear us.. they do. That threads are going up on line and people are talking through their own ideas is enough.

    Seth and I talked extensively over the phone and on the bike…. These are our roads… and we all react and feel responsible in the ways that we can. The posting was living up to the conversations in our heads.

    Comment by Noel — November 10, 2011 @ 2:04 pm    

  26. Okay, then Levi and every other pro who are new to an organized ride and haven’t thought it through please read.

    Comment by Jim — November 10, 2011 @ 2:35 pm    

  27. I have a video of the descent I shot last year. I was curious if anyone could identify roughly where in the video the accident occurred? I’m approaching the intersection with Hume at approx. 3:30 in to it.

    Comment by Steve — November 10, 2011 @ 5:05 pm    

  28. Steve… why? (it’s a rhetorical why).

    The issue isn’t that section…. its no different reallty than any of whole of that road less the very bottom.

    As for posts here… i’m moving on and not approving any more comments.

    Back to normally scheduled programing.

    Thanks for reading!

    Comment by Noel — November 10, 2011 @ 5:49 pm    

  29. leave it up.

    Comment by t-hoe — November 11, 2011 @ 11:02 am    


    link to the memorial fund for Roberto Hyndnman… the rider we lost on Las FLores.

    Comment by Noel — November 12, 2011 @ 3:53 pm    

  31. […] un post apparso qualche tempo fa su Speedbloggen, il blog di Vanilla Bicycles, i distanziali per la serie […]

    Pingback by Cycling is a conversation « ciclisucarta — January 25, 2012 @ 10:13 am    

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